The fact that Westerns allow us to elude our own realities is at the heart of the genre’s remarkable longevity. While the specific factors from which we are looking to escape have evolved drastically from the 1950s to present day, the desire stands unwavering.
Considering its high-profile cast and overwhelmingly positive reviews, it is a mystery why Hell or High Water went relatively unnoticed as an end-of-summer thriller. David Mackenzie directs, with Ben Foster and Chris Pine playing the Howard brothers, two Texan ranchers struggling against the foreclosure of their family farm who decide to organize a series of bank robberies to raise some needed funds. Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham play Texas Ranger Hamilton and his partner Alberto, respectively, who are investigating the thefts, constantly and threateningly close on the heels of the Howards. From the outset, the film holds its audience in unparalleled suspense. The soft country music foils the searing heat of the Texas sun, palpable thanks to the artful cinematography: every surface carries an auburn tinge, and as a result the entire film feels burnt.