This film has been hailed by critics as a revitalization of the Western movie. And it lives up to its hype.
The movie jumps into action from the opening scene. Two brothers, divorced dad Toby (played by Chris Pine) and ex-con Tanner (played by Ben Foster) pull a couple of bank heists right off the bat. Given the (relatively) small amounts stolen, the FBI washes its hands of the case, leaving it to the Texas Rangers.
The Ranger investigators are the elder statesman Marcus Hamilton (played by Jeff Bridges, who looks particularly grizzled) and Alberto Parker (played by Gil Birmingham). It’s Marcus who deduces that the pair of bank robbers have method to their madness.
The story may be classified as a “neo-Western thriller”, but it’s also a character driven film. The two brothers have compelling reasons for robbing the banks. In fact, the banks get little sympathy all around. At times, the pair reminded me of Bonnie and Clyde—except more like Clyde and his hotheaded, ex-con brother.
But seriously, the villains (or, rather, the criminals) are fully developed and even sympathetic, to a point.
Even so, we can also relate with Marcus, who takes a very strategic approach to capturing the bank robbers. One that doesn’t always sit well with his partner, with whom Marcus has a fond (if somewhat fractious) relationship. Marcus, being the old-school sort, tends to not give a damn about political correctness. And Alberto—well, his name is Alberto. Take a guess how this comes across to him.
Given the overall serious theme of poor people trying to survive against the greedy banks, there are bits of levity that help keep the story from drifting into melodrama.
I don’t want to reveal spoilers, but I will say that justice is done in a way that brings out the true feelings of each pair of characters for one another. It’s bittersweet and a bit open-ended. (I half expected Bridges to tip his Ranger cap and say, “Catch you later on down the trail.”)
I wholeheartedly recommend this film! 🙂