Hell or High Water Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

America, West Texas. Two brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard rob a Midland Bank branch. It can be seen that they are not professional robbers at all, but simply amateurs who pull off a robbery “for a fool”, but at the same time they act smartly: they take only small pieces of paper and do not take bundles of banknotes that can be tracked.

Gradually it becomes known who they are. The brothers are from a poor family. Their father constantly beat them. Tanner grew up a slightly frostbitten guy and landed in prison for ten years. His mother was seriously ill, Toby took care of her, working hard at the construction site, and when his mother died, Toby found out that his mother had taken a loan from the bank at extortionate interest, the ranch acted as collateral for the loan, so now, if you do not repay the loan of $ 43 thousand to a certain period, the ranch bank will select. And the problem is not even in the ranch, which is worth little, but in the fact that oil was found on its land. Toby just got the opportunity to leave something for his two sons so that they would avoid their hereditary family disease – poverty – and here it turns out that everything will go to the bank.

So Toby had the idea to make several robberies of the branches of the very bank that threatens to take away his property in order to pay off the debt with this money. And brother Tanner will help him in this: he, of course, is crazy, but he loves his brother, for him family ties are not an empty phrase. And Toby is very clever, and he has thought out well how to do it so as not to get caught.

On the trail of these heists is local Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) with his assistant Alberto Parker (Jill Birmingham). Marcus has three weeks left before his retirement, but he does not really know what he will do without his usual job, so he conducts the investigation carefully and scrupulously: it will be difficult for the brothers to get away from such an experienced bloodhound as Marcus.


The script for this film was written by Taylor Sheridan: a good actor who played, for example, in “Sons of Anarchy”, who is much better known as a screenwriter – he wrote scripts for “The Killer” and “Wind River” (he also directed this film himself). “Any Price” was directed by the not-so-famous British director David Mackenzie. The original title of the film – Hell or High Water – is an idiom meaning “whatever happens” or “no matter what”, but, by the way, “at any cost” is also a more or less appropriate option.

I have a strange story with this film. I really wanted to watch it (I love Jeff Bridges, I consider Ben Foster the strongest actor, and Chris Pine is a good actor), I didn’t wait for the version with the original track, so I watched the dubbed picture (unfortunately, I didn’t remember whose translation and voice acting it was) ). In dubbing, it all looked very stupid, and I was so amazed at the discrepancy between what I expected and what I saw as a result, that I even wrote about it on the blog – the quote is given in the epigraph. But I decided to give the film a chance and watch it later in the original, because I have repeatedly had cases where dubbing literally killed great films: I had such stories with “Lie low in Bruges”, “The Honor of the Prizza Family” and a few more films.

After that, I didn’t think about the picture for a long time, although it came out a long time ago in the form I needed, and just recently I decided to still look: I thought that if I don’t like it in the original, then no one bothers to stop watching.

I started watching – and it’s amazing how completely different the impression was compared to the previous viewing, and literally from the first frames. No drooling, no pathos, on the contrary – this is a serious and very realistically staged drama, where the action, although it unfolds rather slowly (in style, the film is somewhat similar to Cohen’s “No Country for Old Men”), but you follow it with unflagging attention.

The motivation of the characters and aspects of what is actually happening are presented in a very dosed way and the viewers can get a complete picture only at the very end of the film. But at the same time, you quickly realize that this picture is not at all from the series “two clowns rob banks for a fool”, it is much more serious and dramatic.

Toby and Tanner are constantly friendly bickering brothers. Tanner is crazy and clearly has nothing to lose, Toby is the brains behind the operation and is horrified that Tanner breaks instructions from time to time and sets them up. On the other hand, without Tanner, Toby would not have been able to pull it all off – his character is completely different.

Chris Pine Toby played very well: at first it seems that this dissolute brother dragged him into this matter, but then we understand that this is all – Toby’s own idea. And his conversation with Marcus is absolutely wonderful: Toby is in full confidence that he did everything right – he was just trying to prevent the bank from robbing his children.

Ben Foster – the actor is very bright and characteristic, here he played perfectly! It can be seen that Tanner is really cool, he is not afraid of a damn thing, and he is not even afraid of the prospect of going to prison again. He had a crippled childhood, he became who he is – under the influence of circumstances, he really loves his brother, and he helps him in this matter, although Tanner himself will not get anything from this at all, as well as Toby – everything is there should go to his sons.

And here everything is filmed much thinner than in typical films, where one of the partners is the brain of the operation, and the other is bad, extravagant and ruins everything. No, Tanner doesn’t screw things up; he’s just different and acts differently.

Jeff Bridges is so good in any role that he seems to be able to play without a script at all. His Marcus is perceptive, cautious, observant: he is the flesh of the flesh of West Texas, he himself is the same as the locals. And he understands why the locals do not help the ranger in search of these bank robbers: “Thirty years this damn bank robbed me,” says one of the regulars at the bar opposite the bank, “and now someone has finally robbed this bank!”

And here the relationship between Marcus and his assistant, a half-Indian, half-Mexican, is shown very funny (a small but very good role of Gil Birmingham, who played Sheridan in Windy River): Marcus all the time makes all sorts of politically incorrect jokes about an Indian theme about Alberto, and when Alberto asks why Marcus doesn’t bring up the fact that Alberto is half-Mexican, Marcus replies that he hasn’t exhausted the Indian theme yet. At the same time, it is clear that the partners are very attached to each other, and besides, they know that their lives depend on how the partner behaves at the decisive moment.

It’s all very well staged: leisurely, contemplative, but here, as they say, there is something to see – and the camera work is excellent, and the accompanying music by Nick Cave – everything is very harmonious, very voluminous, impressive and just great. You really feel the poverty of these people, you see the general hatred for bank robbers (there are very iconic posters on the streets: from promises of quick loans and assistance in bankruptcy to a poster “There is money for three operations in Iraq, but not to save us from bankruptcy” “), you understand how these people live and feel and why they approve of Toby and Tanner, although the director himself never tries to make them look like Robin Hoods: they are just people who are trying to cope with circumstances in the way they consider possible. All this leads to the death of several people – everyone involved in this will have to live with it, which at some point Markus says.

And one more thing that seemed very interesting. Despite the slowness of the narrative and the lack of action as such, which is fundamental for the director, somewhere in the middle of the film, one very combative scene is inserted, which you just watch with your mouth open: when somewhere at a gas station a certain major with a gun starts bullying Tanner, who arrived in a cool car.

There is also a curious moment in the casino when Tanner plays poker and exchanges words with a Comanche Indian. He tries to put Tanner in his place, but Tanner also broke off not so cool guys – and this is also staged very cool. (By the way, the script was originally called “Land of the Comanches” – there are several important references to the Indian theme in the film, or rather, everything that happened: first, white settlers drove the native Indians out of these places, and now white settlers are driven out of them impudent banks at home.)

Great movie, loved it. And it looks great, and leaves a very good aftertaste, and I want to review it again in order to take a closer look at some episodes that are masterfully choreographed and played. Great actors, a wonderful production (despite the fact that the director is a Scot, and filmed not in West Texas, where they abolished tax breaks for filmmakers, but in New Mexico), an impressive soundtrack – I’m glad that I still saw this picture. Well, once again I gave myself a vow not to watch such films in dubbing – only to spoil the impression and write any garbage about an excellent film that actually has nothing to do with it.


At any cost / Hell or High Water movie meaning

Director: David McKenzie Cast: Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Dale Dickey, William Sterchi, Buck Taylor, Christine Berg, Keith Maryweather, Christopher Jay Buzzel

Budget: $12 million, Global gross: $37 million
Crime drama, USA, 2016, 102 min.

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