I don’t normally bother writing about films – although maybe I should, it’d certainly provide a significant increase in posts here – but last week I saw two that I rated really highly, so there we go, some thoughts.
Hell or High Water
First of them was (as you may’ve guessed already) Hell or High Water, starring Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges. Honestly, I think it’s about the best film I’ve seen this year.
The story is basically two brothers who are robbing banks to raise money, and the old retiring Texas Ranger who’s trying to catch them. So far, so cliched. But it’s well written, the dialogue is excellent, there’s a dry humour through it, and there’s also larger motivations.
The film focuses a lot on debt, low income, Evil Banks and the like. Many of the shots show roadside ads and hoardings for loans, debt relief and so on. The pair are robbing the banks – all of which are branches of Evil Bank – for a reason, and in many ways it’s hard to see them as being “bad”.
Jeff Bridges as the soon-to-retire Texas Ranger is a crusty, grumpy joy, an old fat man who’s done his time, and sort of wants to leave, but worries about what he’ll become without his job. The way he talks to his Ranger partner has to be heard/seen to be believed – but it is believable.
All told, I loved it – I’d happily see it many more times. There’s way more layers than you expect from the basic summary, and a moral ambiguity to it that I enjoyed – the “bad” people aren’t really bad (kind of doing bad things for good reasons) and the “good” people aren’t above playing with the lines and limits either. Totally recommended.
Morgan, on the other hand, is a very different film – except, in some ways, it’s not. Where Hell or High Water is massively masculine, all the major characters in Morgan are women (which I think is nothing but a good thing) At least two of those characters are pretty bloody terrifying in their single-mindedness.
Basically, Morgan is a genetically-engineered being, with the appearance of a late-teen/early-twenties woman. You’re never actually told what she’s been engineered for, but it becomes pretty clear. But it also raises questions – if you’re going to create something with human-level intelligence, what happens when you keep that thing locked up? Answer – the development isn’t the same as a human. (File under “Sherlock, Shit, No”)
The other primary character is Lee, sent in by “The Company” to assess the risks around Morgan after a particular incident.
Needless to say, things don’t work out well.
It is, in parts, very violent , with a couple of scenes that are gory, but in context with what’s happened. At least one is surprising and shocking. But again, it makes sense in the context of the film. It’s action, but with some thought and some big ideas hiding inside it.
Again, I loved it – although from seeing the reviews etc. afterwards, I appear to be in a minority. It hasn’t done well at cinemas, and only lasted the one week at my one. Some of that is because it just hasn’t been promoted by the cinemas and studios, some of it is that a lot of people and reviewers didn’t like it. I hope it sees a bigger audience on TV, Netflix, download, disc, whatever – because I think it should have done far, far better than the current figures are showing.
I love that it’s so women-led as a film, and I want to see more like that. It has its flaws, don’t get me wrong – I’d figured the final ‘twist’ by about the third scene, and there are holes and questions throughout. But those can be set aside (or could by me, anyway) until afterwards. I thought it was dark, different, and brilliant.