Sam Burnham, Curator
My reviews aren’t always timely. This one is no exception. This review goes back to a 2016 release that escaped my radar then but I came across a clip from it a while back and then found the film on Netflix. After viewing it, I think it is important to not only review it but also to follow up with a commentary as I’ve done before.
The cast of Hell or High Water led by Jeff Bridges, using his gravely cowboy voice rather than his more recognized “Dude” voice. Bridges plays an aging Texas Ranger on the trail of bank robbers . His partner is played by Gil Birmingham, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors.
The setting is West Texas but it could just as easily have been in rural areas of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, or Mississippi. There is a painfully accurate portrayal of poverty in rural America. Rather than showing poverty as poor people in a comfortable home but with few possessions, poverty is shown as true economic insecurity. Widespread poverty is contrasted against the wealth of Big Oil and Texas Midlands Bank, the regional bank that plays the roles of both victim and villain.
Texas Midlands takes the brunt of the vengeance within the plot but a broad definition of predatory lending is laid out before viewers to see the sentiment of the common people of West Texas who are consistently reluctant to help rangers investigate the string of bank robberies that are hammering Texas Midlands Bank branches.Their reluctance is due to their hatred for the bank and the practices that have cost so many so much.
On the flip side of the plot we learn of the impact these lending practices has had on the two brothers who are pulling off the robberies one by one. The planning and execution of the robberies serve a particular goal. They also kept the investigators confused. Without giving out spoilers, two robbers and two rangers spin and weave plot twists into a thrilling story, a story with many small messages that combine to make a rousing narrative of Agrarianism, decentralization, and the need for family and community.
But I don’t want to muddy up this review with two much analysis. That’ll be the next story. For now let me say this is a great movie. It has poignant messages we need to consider, action to keep you engaged, and some really good acting. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen.
And now I’m off to break down those messages...
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire