On the plains of West Texas, two brothers systematically rob banks in a desperate attempt to save the family ranch, while a pair of Texas Rangers slowly piece together the evidence leading to a race against the clock. Director David Mackenzie’s new film Hell or High Water intelligently tackles issues of poverty and corporate greed while not losing the heart that leaves the audience thinking long after the last shot.
The Big Short
Last year’s masterpiece The Big Short opened our eyes to the ways in which the banking industry continually tries to find new methods to make money at our expense, and Hell or High Water feels like a spiritual successor to that theme. Toby’s mother was swindled by the bank into a loan that kept her just poor enough to never truly make ends meet. The bank’s goal is to be able to foreclose on her land, which happens to include an oil mine. Following her death, Toby enlists the help of his convict brother Tanner to rob the branches of the bank that has screwed them over in a plan to save the ranch and allow Toby to set it as a trust for his two sons. The parallels with The Big Short are clear, as both films show the financial system taking advantage of poor people and leaving them feeling powerless to overcome their situations.
On top of this, Toby says something profound about poverty, “I’ve been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation. But not my boys, not anymore.” Poverty is so much more than just bad life decisions. It is something that can be passed down in families as people get caught in a maelstrom of systematic financial ruin due to a lack of choices and opportunities as well as unwise actions, in places as wide-ranging as the plains of West Texas to the inner city.
It’s not just the bad choices or lack of opportunity, it’s the depravity of human nature that accentuates the problem. One of the Texas Rangers, Alberto poignantly says, “All this was my ancestors’ land, the lease folks took it, and it’s been taken from them. Except it ain’t no army doing it, it’s those sons of bitches right there [as he points to the bank across the street].” From the beginning of time, since the Fall in the garden, humankind has been taking advantage of others for selfish gain, and this movie does a magnificent job of painting a very clear picture of how broken the world is.
Hell or High Water is the best movie I’ve seen this year. The themes, character work, direction and acting are fantastic. Don’t miss this movie. Hell or High Water is rated 5 out of 5 stars.