The movie Citizen Kane barely qualifies as entertainment, but it is frequently heralded as the greatest film of all time. Why? Because the movie has a message, perhaps a political message, about the danger of having too much power. People love the film for its message, or perhaps for the performance of its actor and director, Orson Wells.
Hell or High Water has an amazing 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is no doubt due in part for the good performances by the actors, most notably Jeff Bridges as a crusty old Texas Ranger. However, I think that main thing driving the good ratings is the movie's overt political message about poverty and the evilness of the banks. Poverty is referred to as a disease passed on from one generation to the next. The decaying small town Texan landscape is like another character in this film, which the great cinematography frequently shows us. We are repeatedly told that the banks are stealing from and trying to cheat the poor. The movie holds this up as justification for the two brothers robbing a series of banks so that they can save the family farm. No agenda there.
By the way, I didn't recognize Chris Pine as one of the bank robbers. This is perhaps an Oscar worthy performance.
In a way this film could be a metaphor for America. Whether or not future generations regard this as a great film might depend upon how well the message resonates, which I think it will.
My problem with all the lavish praise the movie has received is that the entertainment value of the film is good, but not exceptional. This is a movie about bad people doing very bad things, which is kind of depressing. However, the message of the film is thought provoking, which means that there is something special about the movie after all. It will linger on your thoughts for a very long time.
Rating: * * * 1/2