Hell or High Water Blu-ray Review
The still-dying West
If you want a compelling, well-written, well-acted and expertly executed alternative to the generic mainstream, hunt down this elusive little modern-day western.Although set in modern times, everything about David Mackenzie's 2016 crime drama Hell or High Water is pure western. Its tale - written by Taylor Sheridan, who did the stunning Sicario - is about a couple of brothers robbing banks and being hunted down by Jeff Bridges' ageing, on-the-eve-of-retirement Texas Ranger. On paper, it should have been a walking cliche, but MacKenzie and Sheridan work layered texture into the sprawling epic landscape, and the trio of stars utterly embrace their roles, leaving the film feeling both fresh and original.It's slow-burn approach to dissecting the motivations of the characters is impressive (again, not wholly unlike Sicario), with the filmmakers - and indeed the cast - more than prepared to get their hands dirty painting characters in myriad tones of grey. And with a striking setting and a sublime, melancholic score by Nick Cave, Hell or High Water brings these refined ingredients together to form a strong contender for one of the best films of last year (alongside other underrated indie gems like Shane Black's The Nice Guys).
Picture QualityHell or High Water, whilst digitally shot, boasts a surprisingly filmic look, rendered on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.
A great video presentation for a film with classic flair
Detail is impressive throughout, with a rich texture pervading the piece, lapping up the close-ups of weathered visages, and the long shots of dusty towns and wide open vistas. The sun-drenched Texas locales are rendered with a suitably warm colour scheme, running slightly hot but giving the scenery a more scorched feel, whilst black levels deliver strong shadow detail.
There are no obvious digital defects apparent here, leaving a great looking video presentation for a film with classic visual flair.
Sound QualityHell or High Water's accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a punchy, precise number that offers up a strong support to the feature, delivering on all fronts.
The accompanying track delivers on all fronts
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the front and centre channels, from Bridges' trademark drawl to the authentic dialogue of the two brothers, whilst effects bring the sweltering environment to life with heady atmopherics, punctuated by bouts of thunderous gunfire, ringing out across the surrounds and bringing some deafening thunder courtesy of the LFE channel. The score is excellent, driving the piece forward and giving it further style and substance, whilst providing the array yet more material to disseminate expertly.
ExtrasA trio of decent featurettes, each 10-15 minutes long, provide the meat of the extras package, with Enemies Forever: The Characters of Hell or High Water looking at the key players, with some good interview input; Visualising the Heart of America looking at the impressive locations; and Damaged Heroes: The Performances of Hell or High Water looking at the cast who bring the characters to life.
A decent extras package
We also get an Interview with director David MacKenzie, a featurette on the premiere and a half-hour filmmaker Q&A with the key players all on board to talk about the film, as well as a series of trailers on disc startup.
Blu-ray VerdictComparisons have been made to No Country for Old Men, and there's certainly good reason: beyond the story elements, it's also laced with dark comedy - and light moments - as well as quirks that give the characters and the environment a rich authenticity, but Hell or High Water forges its own identity, bringing together script, score, cinematography, performances and direction - the five big boxes you'd ideally like every film to tick - to create an absolute gem.
One of the best films of last year
Studiocanal deliver the goods on this UK Region B-locked Blu-ray, with excellent video and audio and a nice salvo of extras, leaving it a must-have purchase for fans of Bridges, Westerns (modern or otherwise), or just good films in general. Highly recommended.
You can buy Hell or High Water on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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