Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Film Spotlight: Hell or High Water 

For the past decade or so, film exec Franklin Leonard has published something he calls the Black List, a list of 10 of the best scripts that have yet to see the light of day. Back in 2012, Taylor Sheridan's script, then called Comancheria, topped his list. Shot last year in eastern New Mexico, the resulting movie, rechristened Hell or High Water, opens area-wide on Friday. It might not fit with the rest of the summer's big blockbusters, but it's a compelling character study that delivers plenty of suspense.

The film centers on two brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) who start robbing banks so they can prevent the foreclosure of their family's Texas farm. Actor Gil Birmingham who, along with veteran actor Jeff Bridges, plays one of the two Texas Rangers who aims to stop the brothers, says the movie immediately appealed to him once he read the script.

"The writing — it's so brilliantly written," Birmingham says via phone when asked about what made him want take the role. "And who wouldn't want to work with an icon like Jeff Bridges?"

Like his character in the film, Birmingham is Native American. In the film, he takes some ribbing from his partner Marcus (Bridges), a veteran law enforcement official who operates on instinct, but while making the movie, Birmingham and Bridges really bonded.

"He was great," he says of Bridges, who plays Marcus as a cranky son of a bitch who struggles to accept his forced retirement. "We got together in preproduction for a week. The first thing we had in common was our music.

"He has his band, and I play music, so we did a lot of jamming. We have similar philosophical views. We had chemistry naturally before we started filming."

Not your stereotypical heist movie, the film fully develops the characters of both Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster), two brothers with different temperaments. The more rational of the two, Toby, carries himself more cautiously; the hot-headed Tanner shows little restraint as the two hold up banks in small Texas towns while wearing masks and wielding shotguns.

The ambiguous ending works simply because it seems so realistic. Bad guys don't always lose, and good guys don't always win.

"I hope that it stimulates some kind of discussion about the moral issues and the choices we make in life," Birmingham says when asked about what he hopes viewers take away from the movie. "These two brothers find themselves up against the wall and feel like their destinies have been altered by powers beyond their control, and they're desperate to provide for their families. You can also see the consequences that come out of that if you make bad choices and choose violence as the option."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 26, 2022

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Casablanca 80th Anniversary Presented By TCM (Film)

    • Wed., Jan. 26
  • 19th Annual Standing Rock International Shorts Festival @ The Kent Stage

    • Sat., March 5
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show @ Cedar Lee Theatre

    • First Saturday of every month

© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation