The tone of ‘Hell or High Water’ is set from the very first shot by a piece of graffiti which states that unlike banks, there’s no bailout for homeowners in these parts.
This theme is carried throughout the whole piece. We see billboards with the single word question ‘Debt?’, waitresses struggling to bring up a family and stop the repossession of their homes with tips, people on the verge of losing their homes to banks who themselves only exist because of the tax payers largesse.
This is the world of west Texas that Hell or High Water, a movie somewhere between a western and heist film, inhabits.
The plot is simple.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play two brothers who plan to rob the small town banks in Texas and Oklahoma. They only take small untraceable bills and only want enough money to forestall a repossession on the family ranch. However, whereas one brother is cool and methodical the other is an accident waiting to happen.
Sure enough when he robs a bank on his own without telling his brother, in fact just leaving him half way through his meal to commit the crime, the cops are soon on their trail. The cops in question are Marcus (played by Jeff Bridges) an elderly Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement and Alberto (played by Gail Birmingham)
You can see the inevitable confrontation between these men coming a dusty, flat-road mile away but it doesn’t matter because the film expertly develops each of its main characters and themes with deft precision.
What could have been something of a cliché turns into a triumph of story telling that will not be bettered by too many other films this year.
On reflection it’s a film that more than anything about the importance of home, the only place where a family can exist and heal. It’s something that most of the people in these Texas dirt towns that we come across have only a shaky hold on, as if at any moment the foreclosure signs will go up on their lives.
If you want to understand why there are Trump voters in the world this is a pretty good place to start.