REVIEW – HELL OR HIGH WATER – Weirdly, Chris Pine is quite good in this.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster play two bank robbing brothers, hunted across Texas by Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham in Hell or High Water. Written by Sicario scribe Taylor Sheridan and directed by David MacKenzie, the movie is a superior crime caper, whose only sin is wanting everybody to be likeable. The narrative changes the characters to accommodate. For instance, the two young brothers begin the film as bumbling amateurs but finish like masterminds.

It’s like No Country for Old Men without the darkness. Tragedy and violence will happen, but because of misunderstandings. There are killings, but without hatred. That said the violence has palpable emotional consequences. Structurally it most resembles Heat with the cops and robbers as estranged brothers idea. The acting is superb and both the younger and older generation acquit themselves well. Bridges and Birmingham are great fun to watch as a squabbling pair, like an old married couple waiting for the divorce papers to arrive.

The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is also worth a listen.

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AFGHANISTAN – Lone Survivor is a war film which asks the important question: which Mark Wahlberg will survive?

The film begins with footage of the real life and arduous training of Navy frogmen with lots of shouting and ferociousness, if you were being cynical you might think of it almost as a recruiting video but we can put a pin in that. 

Then we’re in Afghanistan where the trivia of home – picking out the color scheme for redecoration – mixes with the gung-ho rituals of on base military life. The professional soldiers prepare for a mission with power point presentations and a close attention to detail – and then four of the squad (Wahlberg, John Carter, Into the Wild and Ben Foster) are dropped into hostile territory where things begin quickly to go wrong. 

Accusing a true story of cliché might seem a bit rich, but US foreign policy has a tendency to repeat its mistakes with such grinding regularity that familiar ground is hard to avoid. For some this will be a patriotic piece of action cinema, a stirring tribute to the fallen. To others it might be a piece of pernicious propaganda which manipulates the suffering and death of the American soldiers for maximum effect while utterly disregarding the suffering and death of everyone else. Hoping for geopolitical nuance from the director of Battleship might be asking too much, but his action sequences are much better and clunking clichés and lachrymose coda aside, there’s a punchy  and tense war film here.