fri 20/04/2018

DVD/Blu-ray: Hell or High Water | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: Hell or High Water

DVD/Blu-ray: Hell or High Water

Echoes of the old West signal tragedy in Scottish director's new take on an old genre

Shattered dreams: Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as bank robber brothers Toby and Tanner

In American mythology, the frontier offered a clean slate, the opportunity to escape from the shadow of the past and live heroically. But, as with everything else in the context of the American Dream, which continues to unfold in real life as if it were but a simulacrum of myth, the present is haunted by the shadow of evil: greed, violence – between white men, but also against native Americans – and personal tragedy. We are prisoners of our past, and nothing can save us.

David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water is shot through with echoes of classic Westerns – two brothers on the loose, bad men robbing banks with good reason, a world-weary sheriff with an itchy trigger finger, a good Indian whose wisdom is ignored in a fog of ambient racism. A sense of unfolding tragedy fills the film with almost unbearable tension from beginning to end.

The dream of the frontier has decayed almost beyond recognition

The script by Taylor Sheridan is razor-sharp and all the characters are not just well written but well played. The cinematography by British director of photography Giles Nuttgens is always very beautiful and moody, never showing off or playing to the gallery. There are plenty of good new country songs to set the mood and enhance the story-telling, as well as a discreet but effective score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

The story is set in a crumbling West, a backwater in which the dream of the frontier has decayed almost beyond recognition, and the echoes of the old myths sound distant and yet present as if to feed the bitterness and resignation of the protagonists. There are billboards offering solutions to debt, rather than selling the paraphernalia of consumer dreams. And the two brothers at the heart of the story do small-time hold-ups in order to salvage something of lives that are close to going under. There have been plenty of elegiac films about the hangover of the old West, and this must surely be one of the best.

A sense of unfolding tragedy fills the film with almost unbearable tension from beginning to end


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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