Hell or High Water: Western-Noir for our times, a review

hell-and-high-water

 

Last Saturday was movie night again at our friends’ (Karen and Steve) house. All four of us had fun watching this on a beautiful brand new entertainment system.

 

This film took us along on a suspenseful crime spree through small town Texas. We watched 2 brothers as they robbed banks and we also followed the lawmen, who were hot on their trail. This is such an oversimplification, but to say more would risk too much. The reasons for the robberies were initially unclear but gradually we understood. Boy oh boy, there was great satisfaction in watching a rather genius plan unfold. But would they get away with it? The beauty of this movie lies in the motivation of the crimes. The true heart of this film was subtle, yet it eloquently gave us a glimpse at the lives of simple folk.

The reveal is doled out in alternating moments of quiet contemplation and high stakes tension. This is a story about real lives, set in a real place. It is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Yes, there is quite a bit of humour in this dark suspenseful tale. I also love the way it sneaks in some scathing social commentary. The cinematography is stunning rendering Texas an important character of the film. The acting is outstanding. Jeff Bridges is nominated for a supporting Oscar in his role as a senior Texas Ranger, determined to bring the culprits to justice. Gil Birmingham is fantastic as his younger colleague  and verbal jousting partner. Ben Foster, a talented chameleon of an actor, plays the ex-con brother with charm, tenderness and unique code of honour. But it is Chris Pine who surprised me. I should preface this by stating that I am not a fan of Pine, primarily because I have seen him in the same role too many times. Mostly cocky young men, of which James T. Kirk in the new Star Trek reboot is quintessential. His acting, until now, has been just too smarmy for my taste. Finally, this film allows him to stretch in a different, more sincere direction. In this film he plays the brother who has always played it straight and for that, he seems beaten down by the world at large. The film is directed with subtle detail by David Mackenzie, who is new to me.

Special credit must be given to Taylor Sheridan, the writer of this original screenplay. Even his bit characters are magnificent. I was so happy to learn that he has been honoured with an Oscar nomination. He is also known for another tense thriller, Sicario, which I reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) over a year ago. He has come a long way from a struggling actor in 2010 to a celebrated screenwriter of original stories. I will definitely keep a lookout for his next project to hit the big screen.

If you like tightly plotted western or crime films, great dialogue and a story that you have never seen on screen before, then this film is worth a look.

 

 

 

 

 

Sicario: a Review

Sicario

 

I saw this film at the theatre a couple of nights ago with my husband. It has received great reviews. It stars Emily Blunt and is directed by Denis Villeneuve. Those 2 were enough to have me interested. The addition of Benicio Del Toro was just a bonus. Sicario means hitman in Spanish.

 

 

Emily Blunt plays Kate, and idealistic FBI agent who is motivated by vengeance to join a secret operation involving the CIA and the “War on Drugs.” She seems to be in the dark about most things mission critical and we watch her come up to speed as she struggles to understand. To say more would risk spoiling this film.

The pace of this film is rather deliberate; some would even say slow. I think a few people walked out of the theatre. I think the pace made me wonder what was going on for much of the film, paralleling Kate’s experience. All became clear and the ending was satisfying. It is a scathing commentary on the “War on Drugs.”

Both my husband and I really enjoyed it. The acting was superb. The cinematography was transportive. The violence and ghastliness had me shielding my eyes, so I probably won’t watch this again. However, I can certainly recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers, doesn’t mind a slow burn and won’t resent being in the dark for much of a film.

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