Top 100 Films Of The 2010’s – #23 – Hell Or High Water (2016)


RELEASED: 9th September 2016

DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie

CAST: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, Katy Nixon, Dale Dickey, Kevin Rankin, Danny Winn, Amber Midthunder and Melanie Papalia

BUDGET: $12m


AWARDS: None (4 Academy Award nominations, 3 Golden Globe nominations and 3 BAFTA nominations)

A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.


Set in West Texas, Hell or High Water focuses on divorced father Toby Howard and his ex-con older Brother Tanner carrying out early morning robberies at two branches of the Texas Midlands Banks, as they look to get as much money as possible to pay off a the debt of a reverse mortgage on the family ranch, which was provided by the Texas Midlands Bank, within the next few days or else the ranch will be foreclosed. On their case however are two Texas Rangers, Marcus Hamilton and Alberto Parker, with Hamilton nearing retirement and he quickly determines the brother’s methods and personalities, figuring out what the their next bank robbery will be and catch them in the act.


Hell or High Water is written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David Mackenzie, focusing on two brothers and the bond of brotherhood, as the two come together after their mother has passed away after a long illness, leaving their family ranch in debt because of a reserve mortgage and that debt is not paid off in a few days, then the ranch is taken from them. So their form of frontier justice is to rob as many of the bank branches in West Texas as possible before the debt deadline and pay off the debt to keep the branch in the family, especially since there’s oil discovered on their land. The film has an interesting tone to it through Sheridan’s screenplay, this time having something to say about the modern state of and the questions it asks the audience. Are the brothers in the wrong for robbing the banks? Is it the banks that are the thieves here in how loans and foreclosures operate? We see everyone quite literally struggling through this film. The brothers feel worn down, Marcus Hamilton is so worn down that he fears having nothing to live for outside of retirement, even the working class are beaten down by poverty in the area, with one waitress fearing that her tip from the brothers will be taken as evidence by the Texas Rangers, even though it will cover half her mortgage, even Alberto Parker gives a monologue about how the land keep being retaken, from how it was done from their ancestors right down to now it being owned by the banks. It’s a lovely, well-paced character driven western that keeps the action sequences to a minimum, which makes the scenes when there is violence it feels more impactful and real, there’s no Hollywood tint to glorify it. The cinematography from Giles Nuttgens is really good here, particularly in how he captures the landscape of Texas, the music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis just suits with the tone of the film and the direction by David Mackenzie great as well, particularly in the sequences when he follows the brothers either in the car during a bank robbery or casually driving from point A to B. The performances from the ensemble is also great here, with Ben Foster shining brightly as the older brother Tanner, who has particular street smarts when he’s in certain environments and scenarios, but it’s Chris Pine the younger brother Toby is the more calculated and level-headed of the two and while Ben Foster gets to chew the scenery more with his role, Pine is terrific as the more quiet, reserved character whose been made to sound and feel older than he is growing up in poverty. Jeff Bridges is really good as the nearing retirement Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and Gil Birmingham is good as his partner Alberto Parker.


FAVOURITE SCENE: The final scene for me, particularly the final conversation between Toby Howard and Marcus Hamilton, absolutely love that ending.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Hey. I rent a little house in town. If you wanna stop by and finish this conversation, you’re welcome anytime.


Oh, I’d like that. I’ll be seeing you.


Yeah. Soon I hope. I’m ready to be done with this.


You’ll never be done with it no matter what. It’s gonna haunt you, son, for the rest of your days. But you won’t be alone. It’s gonna haunt me too.


If you stop by, maybe I’ll give you peace.


Maybe. Maybe I’ll give it to you.” – Toby Howard and Marcus Hamilton

DID YOU KNOW: The phrase “come hell or high water” typically means “do whatever needs to be done, no matter the circumstances”. It also refers to the “hell or high water clause” in a contract, usually a lease, which states that the payments must continue regardless of any difficulties the paying party may encounter. Both definitions apply to different parts of the plot in this movie.


One response to “Top 100 Films Of The 2010’s – #23 – Hell Or High Water (2016)

  1. Pingback: Top 100 Films Of The 2010’s: The Complete List | Irish Cinephile·

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