Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Hell or High Water’ (2016)

CBS Films

CBS Films

When a guy who hasn’t exactly been the best “older brother” wants to make amends, the bounty can be both huge and illegal.

In Hell or High Water, a taut, muscular little movie directed by David Mackenzie, jailbird Tanner (Ben Foster) wasn’t around much to help his kid bro Toby (Chris Pine). When she died, their mother owed a lot of money on her home to the bank. With that property at risk, making it impossible for Toby to leave it to his own children, Toby asks Tanner for a big favor: help him rob a few banks to pay off the debt and child support.

The film is as tightly coiled as Tanner’s temper, as the lads go from one Texas Midlands bank to another – “twenties and under, loose bills” – with an eye towards liberating the family real estate from the bank that’s in charge of taking it away for good.

It doesn’t take long before the grizzled, soon-to-retire Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) gets on the case, waiting for the youngsters – who make a strong case for poverty being a legacy passed down from one generation to the next – to make a mistake, so that his final professional triumph will be bringing these robbers to justice.

CBS Films

CBS Films

Hell or High Water’s pervasive archetype is siblings, ruled by Trickster Mercury, no stranger to mythical thieving. Both Tanner and Toby are related by blood and craftiness. Paralleling those schemers are Marcus and his Amerindian partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) who tells the cagey and sharp Marcus, “I don’t know how you’re going to survive without someone to outsmart.” These seniors, who’ve had the benefit of years together, are clearly as good as kin.

A nice touch by screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is Tanner’s affectionately calling Toby “Little Brother,” the same term more caustically used by older sibling Frank (Beau Bridges) to address younger brother Jack (Jeff Bridges) in the Steve Kloves-directed, sibling-themed The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989).

Archetype: Siblings.

Astrology Archetype: ☿ (Mercury)

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