Directed by: – David Mackenzie

Produced by: – Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn , Gigi Pritzker, Rachel Shane, Braden Aftergood

Starring: – Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham

Runtime: – 102 minutes (1hr 42 minutes)

Justice Isn’t a Crime.

Hell or High Water follows brothers Toby (Chris Pine) a divorcee and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard an ex convict who pull-off small heist’s on a series of small –town Texas Midland bank branches. Despite how small scale these robberies are they are executed well for the most part thanks to Toby’s planning and Tanner’s experience and pleasure in getting his hands dirty. As the movie unfolds the audience learns about the brothers past and their motivations (I won’t discuss about), things are not as they seem. Hot on their trail is a pair of Texas Rangers: Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) and Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges). Marcus is on the verge of retirement and gets involved in the case because he is genuinely intrigued by their methods and motivation and is also looking for once last thrill before he calls it a day on his career.As the slow game of cops and robbers unfolds the four men get locked into a standoff with each other after the Howard brothers final bank heist doesn’t completely go to plan. We are left asking whether the honest lawmen or the pair of brothers who seemingly have nothing left to live for will prevail.

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard

This neo-western crime thriller is scribed by Taylor Sheridan who wrote the critically acclaimed Sicario and is directed by David Mackenzie who has worked on features like Perfect Sense and Asylum. With a screenplay that was once featured on The Black List, an annual survey of the “most liked” motion picture screenplays not yet produced and its numerous nominations particularly   its Academy Award nominations that include Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bridges), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing, I was definitely intrigued to see what this picture had to offer. Does this movie deserve all its praise or is it one that deserves to put in the slammer?



  • Reading a synopsis at first glance one would automatically feel that this movie would be high on action set pieces and exhilarating car chases. Upon watching it you will discover that its quite the opposite. While those elements are still present in the movie, it prefers to take a slower approach as the film takes its time to tell a character driven story and one that isn’t fuelled by the need for constant action. The robberies are done as a result of the brothers needs to fulfil an objective and not to be simply rich. The movies approach to its plot means that the themes and relationship between the main characters have room to develop through their interactions (both physical and verbal), which, allows them to naturally grow or stagnate (depending on which brother) over the course of the film. This approach allows the movie to make a compelling character study out of its flawed leads.
  • Chris pine and Ben Foster put in great performances as Toby and Tanner Howard. Pine compared to his usual loud mouth roles that one would have seen in the Star Trek, This Means War or Horrible Bosses 2 is more reflective and   quiet but is also willing to get violent for his cause. Foster, as the slightly unhinged Tanner is entertaining to watch because of his arrogant behaviour, craftiness and his sensitivity when family is brought into the topic. Their differences make the characters an effective foil to each other and their multi-faceted nature helps justify their actions and represents the films theme that there are no black and white only grey areas.
  • On the other side of the law we have Gil Birmingham and Jeff Bridges   as Texas Rangers Alberto Parker and Marcus Hamilton who thanks to their equally good performances represents the film’s dry and bleak sense of humour. The two do a good job because of their natural chemistry as the two characters bounce off each other through sarcasm, quips and general topics revolving around age, ethnicity and the treatment of lower class. Jeff who is no stranger to westerns effectively re-channels elements of his critically acclaimed performance in True Grit into his character who is depicted as an abrasive son-of-a-gun who’s tough exterior is hiding his vulnerability that he is no longer capable due to his advance age and puts in a performance that is worthy of a nomination.
  • The cinematography of this film is superb. Texas in this movie is painted as wasteland with a desert-like palette that goes a long way in establishing a real atmosphere that feels realistic and gritty.  Mackenzie deserves praise for his direction, as he knows when to linger his shots and when to employ more conventional storytelling techniques.
  • I really enjoyed the movies approach to its action sequences. Even though there are far and few between the movies approach to the heist and shootouts are refreshing. Most films that revolve around bank heist glamorize these sequences but the movie decides against that method and grounds these sequences in reality.



  • If you are not a fan of thrillers that pace themselves slowly , there is a high chance you may struggle to get into this movie. If you go into this movie expecting a lot of action sequences prepared to be disappointed as the movie takes a more realistic approach to its heists.
  • The movie doesn’t really break new ground in its genre in terms of the story but when it does it very well this point comes off as nitpick rather than a genuine criticism.


Hell or High Water is a  well-made Western heist  thriller  that is massively satisfying to watch thanks to the movies decision to bide most of its time  developing its great characters in favour of  mindless action set-pieces. This is one you should not miss .



Olisa Nwokedi
About The Author
- Olisa is an Aberystwyth University law graduate and Fordham University School of Law Masters graduate who was admitted into the Nigerian Bar in July 2016. He enjoys playing and watching rugby, writing, watching movies, playing video-games and Shark wrestling.......... that last part was fiction.