Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Cinematographer: Giles Nuttgens
Producer: Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, and Julie Yorn
by Jon Cvack
I haven’t been the biggest Chris Pine fan for what I’ve seen him in, but one of my Facebook buddies and a person I trust about 75% of time said he gave an amazing performance, comparing him to a young Pacino. While I wouldn’t go that far, in this film Pine does go places I’ve never seen. He plays Toby Howard, opposite his rebellious, ex-con brother Tanner Horward, taken on by Ben Forster, who might have just given his best performance of all time. The duo does take a bit of getting used to it, as the stoic lead and wayward co-pilot character duo have been played out quite a bit, and while there are a few moments that go a bit too far throughout the story, by about a third of the way in, when the Green Camaro pulls up, I was hooked.
The duo have been hitting up small community banks throughout Western Texas, all situated in dying West Texas towns, where there’s hardly more than a motel and restaurant. The cat in this game is Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) who’s on the verge of retirement, shadowed and soon to be replaced by Ranger and Native American Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham, who’s actually Comanche which is refreshing). The story abides by most of the tropes and formulas of the genre - borrowing from such films as Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Town, and Bonnie and Clyde, all placed within a No Country for Old Men environment.
While I knew where it was all going, I was excited to see how it got there. At times the film bites off more than it can chew - constantly moving the camera, even when the action or blocking seems unnecessary to do so. Yet there are other moments, such as when they’re burying the car, or Toby and Tanner are standing before a giant Windmill, where director David MacKenzie captures the moment perfectly, providing a perfect balance between the state of the characters and the enviornment. MacKenzie takes some awesome risks with one takes, and even when you think you have it figured out, you don’t.
Similar to No Country for Old Men the story serves more as Myth than Reality. There’s a foreboding sense of inevitable change throughout the film. The towns are poor, on the brink of having nothing left to offer, and the people are suffering. While occasionally too on the nose, there was an interesting commentary on the re-infiltration of the wild west, with lax gun laws allowing anyone to flash their piece and challenge another man, culminating in a wild shootout conclusion where local citizenry finally get to actualize their fantasies and use their weapons for "good". Throughout the story we’re hearing about the conflict between the white people who are now going through their own era of displacement, now empathizing with the Natives who they previously helped to butcher. Beneath all the ball busting between Alberto and Marcus, or Toby and the Native American at the casino, is a deep respect for what they went through, realizing the same is now happening to their own community.
It’s a great film that gets carried away a few times. Even with those flaws, the characters are so good, some camera work so breathtaking, the environment and voice so unique, and the questions and ideas so interesting that it’s easily one of the best films from 2016.
BELOW: Best scene of the movie
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