Top Ten Movies of 2016 — Number Seven


Hell or High Water is sharp and funny and wise. The longer it sits with me, though, the more one quality it holds grows more resonant and true. Hell or High Water is forlorn. Taylor Sheridan’s finely honed screenplay tells the story of two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who embark on a bank robbing spree across the dry, aching expanse of Texas. It also follows the Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham) who wearily pursue the criminals. This, then, is a cops and robbers tale, bleached with the starkness of a modernized Hollywood Western. But it moves past the potential simplicity of its bare mechanics to becomes something more profound. The film is properly enmeshed in the worries of the society in which it is set, carrying all the wounds that come along with that strong sense of time and place. The brothers commit their felonies out of desperation over a reverse mortgage coming due on the family homestead, and the Rangers repeatedly encounter witnesses and other citizens who are deeply disenchanted with various institutions that were once concerned revered pillars of the nation. Presented with attention, care, and an unerring sense of tone by director David Mackenzie, the film feels like an uneasy dispatch from a land edging towards collapse.

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