Hell or Highwater follows a divorced father, Toby (Chris Pine) and his criminal brother, Tanner (Ben Foster). They're making their way through West Texas, robbing banks to save their family's ranch by paying off a reverse mortgage. Their scheme is soon the work of a close-to-retirement Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and his partner (Gil Birmingman). What was just a simple scheme, robbing small bills from small banks, turned into a deadly game of cat and mouse. It's an intense and very unique bank heist film and the fact that it got award recognition makes me incredibly happy.
It's a slow burn, but one of those slow burns that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout its short run-time. Sure, there's action, but this is not an action film. It's a drama with far more emotion and personal-level storytelling than I was expecting. Moments in between the intense bank heights, car chases or shootouts are greeted with characters just sitting down and talking most of the time. Exposition is very rarely the driving force of conversation. Dialogue feels natural and often characters just talk about nothing relevant, doing wonders by creating more developed, realised characters. If you're reading this and you think it sounds boring, it isn't, and waiting as the film takes it's time is well worth it, as the final act of this film will leave anyone white-knuckling and sweating just as many bullets as the ones being fired on screen.
Speaking on the Oscar race and the chances this film has, honestly, I think they're slim. I think it's best chances are in the best original screenplay category, because this script is nothing short of remarkable, but this just doesn't feel like a best picture winner to me. Every year there are two or three films nominated that you know won't win, but are happy to see nominated anyway, and for me, this film is one of those. Also, let's be honest with ourselves, love it or hate, La La Land is probably going to sweep (which I'm okay with). I just can't see Jeff Bridges, as good as he is in this film, beat Mahershala Ali in the supporting actor category. As I mentioned, however, I am still very happy to see a film like this get the recognition it deserves.
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