Director: David MacKenzie.
This film kind of came out of nowhere, only seeing the trailers for it a couple of weeks ago, but the immediate hype was intriguing so I was eager to watch this as soon as it was released. First thing I do after watching this is head straight for the shop and grab myself some bottled American lager (well, brewed under licence but it's the closest I'm gonna get.) I get home, crack one open and sit there thinking about what I've just seen.
First and only film I've seen of director David MacKenzie was his grim British prison drama, Starred Up, which was incredibly good. And I was mesmerised by last year's Sicario which is written by the same Taylor Sheridan so it's a win-win combination already without adding the cast.
The story delves deeper than a couple of brothers committing bank robberies across west Texas, it's almost political and opens the field to a broader history in a realistic manner, but leaves you sitting on the fence with regard to who's the bad or good guy and in fact, proves either can be both giving the circumstance.
We follow the Howard brothers Tanner and Toby, Tanner played ruthlessly by Ben Foster as the impulsive, trigger-happy ex-con and Chris Pine playing Toby, the struggling, better, younger brother. Foster being a worn monster truck of brutal force whilst Pine is a filthy aged muscle car.
Hot on their trail is soon-to-be retired Texas ranger Marcus Hamilton played masterfully by Jeff Bridges, and his partner, who Hamilton continually ridicules about his heritage, Alberto Parker, played by Twilight's shape-shifting wolf, Gil Birmingham.
The relationships within both pairs are highly captivating and with a strong sense of realism. Their performances being some of the best I've seen all year, and yes, Bridges ultimately delivers but that's expected, Pine is equally amazing, shredding all skin and hint of Capt. Kirk but Foster is the star here. Maybe slightly biased, liking Foster since 3:10 To Yuma as Charlie Brown, his portrayal is ferociously compelling. You can't help but like the character and I suppose that's the beauty of this film, all the characters have they're own likability, making it harder to choose who's side you'll be on just hanging in there for the outcome.
The script is amazing, superbly written with some classic clever quotes, giving Ben Foster some of the best lines in the movie, actually providing elements of comedy. The confrontations in particular are enthralling, making great cinema. Tense, powerful with a perfectly balanced contrast between the action and downtime, the only constant is the dusty ambience that leaves you with a gritty taste, I could almost feel the dirt on my skin.
It's excellence doesn't end there, with a flawless choice of veterans of west American dramas Nick Cave and Warren Ellis who's collaboration has been on Lawless and The Proposition; and independently Ellis doing an eerie score for The Road and Cave composing a haunting one for The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford. The perfect pairing of score and soundtrack gives the film an air of melancholy, a sober tone that belongs to this story.
Great cinematography, especially the panning shots, superb script writing and brilliantly violent. Accompanied with an excellent score and great performances from all. Perfectly paced from start to finish. This is a modern, epic western, a must see movie, hell or high water.
Running Time: 10
The Cast: 10
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for the outstanding performances for all four! Foster, Bridges, Pine and Birmingham and for excellent direction.