After a somewhat lacklustre, disappointing Summer movie season, we're now heading into a more promising Fall season, kicking off with the Cannes surprise smash-hit Hell or High Water, starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges.

After their mother passes on, divorced father Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his brother, Tanner (Ben Foster), have to turn to robbing banks in order to raise enough cash to pay off her debt and save her ranch, which sits on a goldmine of oil and money, to leave for Toby's boys. Toby is the straight-man of the two, not used to a criminal life like this, whilst Tanner is the more violent of them, an ex-con artist, fresh out of prison, acting as the muscle of the group. Hitting one small bank after another, only taking a small sum of cash from each, so as not to draw too much attention to themselves and minimise the chance of screwing up and getting caught, they go across the State every so slowly adding to their total. However, when the robberies catch the attention of Texas Rangers Alberto (Gil Birmingham) and Marcus (Jeff Bridges), the cops set out to bring the brothers down - especially Marcus, who, on the verge of retirement, is desperate to put off his impending days of doing nothing for as long as possible and go out with a bang.

Director David Mackenzie has recently been proving himself as a tour de force in directing, especially after 2013's incredible, white-knuckle crime-thriller Starred Up. Meanwhile, Taylor Sheridan impressed - as a writer - with his first screenplay, last year's remarkably brutal Sicario. With their latest film, Hell or High WaterMackenzie's visceral direction of Sheridan's slick, sharp writing makes for one of the best films of the year: a thrill ride from start to finish. This is an exceptionally well-written, astutely-directed and just beautifully crafted piece of cinema. If you love and appreciate movies, this is for you. This is a love letter not only to old-school Westerns and heist-thrillers but also to film in general too. It's fairly slow-paced and opts for more character driven moments over big action sequences, yet, in a time so overstuffed with big, bloated blockbusters, this is fairly refreshing and very welcomed; Sheridan's script takes its time in telling its story, so laden with nuance and passion, and it does so exceptionally well. It's intense, surprisingly witty and even often quite moving throughout.

We invest in the proceedings and in the characters and it adds to the stakes and the weight of everything going on. Every character in this picture is so well-drawn and well-realised; they feel real and genuine and we find ourselves quickly attaching to them. And the acting only adds to this nuance and grounds these characters further; Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham are an incredible pairing as the Texan rangers, Marcus and Alberto. You buy into their friendship and they have such palpable chemistry with one another. However, it's Ben Foster and Chris Pine that are the standouts here, with both turning out visceral, career-best performances as the Howard brothers. Both give much more subdued, reserved performances than we're used to seeing from them and they truly excel; Foster is superb and brings plenty of the comedic relief and wit whilst Pine, especially, gives a remarkably nuanced and layered performance as the morally troubled Toby. There is veritable chemistry between them too, which easily grounds their believable brotherly relationship. Even supporting cast members like Dale Dickey shine.

Hell or High Water is, quite simply, a masterpiece. This is a masterful feat of cinematic finesse. This is a movie for fans of movies. As a Western, it's a winner. As a heist-thriller, it's a winner. As a movie, it's a winner. Gorgeously shot; meticulously scored; sharply written; superbly acted with David Mackenzie's remarkable craftsmanship and direction bringing it altogether, this is a visceral and truly delightful work of art that is just so enthralling and fun to watch. From the intense, gripping opening sequence right through to that quiet, profound final scene, you'll be grinning from ear to ear... and that's when you know you're watching something pretty damn special.


Hell or High Water is an undisputed masterpiece and one of the best films of the year. This is cinema at its finest: a transfixing, beautiful and visceral delight from start to finish.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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