REVIEW – HELL OR HIGH WATER

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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SICARIO – REVIEW

SICARIO – REVIEW: Denis Villeneuve’s cross border thriller is a dark, complex investigation into the front line of the drug war.

Emily Blunt plays Kate Macer, a Police officer who graduates from kicking in doors to join a special task force led by Josh Brolin’s amoral agent Matt. Matt is unconventional and so is his squad. The flipflop wearing dudester is obviously into rule breaking, with some kind of blessing from on high and we’re prepared for a classic Hollywood narrative as the young straight laced rookie learns to bend the rules to get results, getting a little crooked on the way. But like many things with Sicario, expectations are raised only to be subverted. Lines are crossed as well as borders as the team motor into a Mexico town to collect a potential witness, a  thundering convoy into a hellish Mexican town is executed with brutal excitement, an almost documentary immersion into the world.  A fog of compromise and doubt pervades the movie, which each character tries to cut through in their own way. The half-light of the Mexico-US border is caught by Roger Deakins amazing cinematography that imbues proceedings with a the kind of badlands noir that No Country for Old Men hinted at.

Another member of the squad is the apparently stateless  Alejandro, played by a magnificent Benico Del Toro. No one is sure where he comes from or what his relationship is to the cartels, or what his legal role is. And he glowers with the kind of dark history of a dead man walking, an instrument of darkness who Matt employs but never truly controls. Former TV actor Taylor Sheridan has crafted a screenplay that provides the sort of grim fare that made the Seventies brilliant and Emily Blunt does her best to maintain her calm even as the film veers away from her and into much darker territory. By the end we don’t really know where we are and for the first time, I was genuinely looking forward to the Blade Runner sequel.

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