Brotherhood is a theme which has been analysed a great deal throughout the history of cinema; however Hell or High Water’s dissection is poignantly unique and thoroughly refreshing. The film follows brothers Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) as they work to save their family ranch by robbing the various branches of the bank that is trying to claim it. Pursuing them are Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) who are on the last legs of a long partnership as Marcus prepares for retirement.
Immediately evident upon watching is that the film depicts brotherhood in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Toby and Tanner are brothers by birth whose relationship has been strained by Tanner’s 10 year incarceration. Both are distinctly dissimilar, Toby more of a tortured albeit noble character while Tanner is more of wild card whose reckless behaviour is a constant grievance for all involved, yet it never feels as if the two are only working for their common goal. There is transparent growth as the brothers rekindle their relationship; each acting increasingly as the other’s emotional ballast which Pine and Foster portray masterfully.
Marcus and Alberto on the other hand are as dissimilar as possible for a western and their relationship is not presented quite so poignantly. Marcus is an elderly cowboy whereas Alberto, who is of Hispanic and Native American descent, is constantly teased by Marcus’ generational racism much to his dismay. Further, Alberto is mentioned to have a large family as opposed to Marcus who has none where in-lies the crux of their relationship.
The grizzled old ranger strives to postpone his retirement for as long as possible in order to avoid the harsh reality of his own loneliness however there is little to no exposition on why Alberto should feel as strongly for Marcus causing their brotherhood to feel far more one-sided. Perhaps if more history had been revealed as opposed to banter-like bullying this could have been better portrayed, and overall it betrays the film. Nevertheless it is the only flaw in an otherwise fantastic film and it is more than made up for by the stellar performances throughout.
Image: Gage Skidmore; Flickr.com