Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Rocker and Halls reviews – Hell or High Water

Posted on November 12, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By Aaron Halls and John Rocker

About Our Rating System

Hello readers! Before we begin with our review, we would like to explain our rating system. Most of the time, critics like to attach a number or a letter to grade a film. We think giving a film a value like that doesn’t really explain how we feel about the film. Instead, we are going with a different approach. Our rating system is simple. There are four levels. The top being “A Must See” followed by “Wait for DVD,” then “Watch on Cable,” and lastly “Avoid It.” These ratings are a reflection of our opinion. So if you disagree with us, that’s fine. In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you like a film that you’re watching. We are just sharing our thoughts. We hope you enjoy the review!


Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie, follows two bank robbing brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) in western Texas. The brothers’ heists have caught the attention of rangers Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), and so a cat-and-mouse game ensues between the two duos.

What Did We Like?

J: I enjoyed a lot of the technical aspects of the film. Those are the kind of things I pay attention to more when watching films. The opening shot was an impressive 360 degree camera move. Considering how much coordination it takes to get a shot like that to work, I appreciated how they were able to pull that off. Another technical aspect that worked was the sound design. It’s something that reminds you of the location you are in. The slow creaks of the windmill, the chugs of an oil rig, those are the kind of things that kept me in the scene rather than bleak silence. The musical score, even though there wasn’t too much, is also something worth mentioning. It made the best use of a fiddle and it felt authentic to the region.

A: Working in parallel with the script are the fantastic performances from each of the actors in the central cast. Chris Pine and Ben Foster are fantastic as Toby and Tanner Howard. Chris Pine gives a subtle performance; out of the two brothers his character he is more conflicted about their criminal activity, and as audience members we can easily see this with both the verbal and nonverbal characteristics he gives to the character. Foster also excels in his role. His character is more loose in his morals than his brother, but due to Foster’s performance you still like him. The two have excellent chemistry, and as an audience member you really feel like the two are brothers that deeply care about each other. Also standing out are Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham as Marcus Hamilton and Alberto Parker. Bridges has a great authoritative presence as Gil and has an excellent dynamic with Birmingham, who shines throughout the movie.

What Did We Dislike?

J: To be honest, there isn’t that much to find when it comes to things that didn’t work. I think the only thing might be with how it ends. You see, you think the film is going to end at a certain spot, but it doesn’t. There’s actually one more scene. While that scene is a good one, I think it would have been just as effective to end it earlier. It doesn’t ruin the movie for me or anything. It’s more of a personal nitpick.

A: Similar to John, I have little to no criticisms of this film. I thought that although the ending worked for the film and was a good conclusion, the overall film experience might have resonated more if it ended a little earlier.

Who Would Enjoy This Movie?

J: I think this film fits for people who love westerns, as this has a lot of influences from that genre, even though it’s set in modern day. I also think people who are looking for a film that has a strong story with rich characters. I’d also say this is for people who didn’t enjoy Triple 9 earlier this year. There are a lot of similarities between the two films. The major difference is that this film has character whereas Triple 9 doesn’t. This movie is a must-see.

A: I think this film is mostly for people who enjoy character pieces. If you’re a fan of recent shows like Breaking Bad, where some of the main characters are morally complex but human, then this is a movie you won’t want to miss. As John said, this movie is definitely worth your time.

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