Friday, 27 January 2017

Best Supporting Actor 2016: Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water

Jeff Bridges received his seventh Oscar nomination for portraying Marcus Hamilton in Hell or High Water.

Hell or High Water is a brilliant film about two brothers, Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine), who plan a series of bank robberies in order to pay off the debt on their deceased mother's ranch, and the two Texas Rangers trying to catch them.

Now I say and the Texas Rangers trying to catch them because the film in the end is as much about the lawmen as the outlaws. Yes the film opens with a robbery, but the majority of its final moments focuses on the investigator. Jeff Bridges plays the investigator, Marcus Hamilton, who along with his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) goes about investigating a series of robberies. This is obviously a well worn role, particularly with the addition that Marcus is but a few weeks until retirement. Hell or High Water is a neo-western but Bridges was previously Oscar nominated for playing a lawman in the traditional western, True Grit. That was not a favorite performance of mine, and Bridges actually carries something similar over to his work here. That is his grumbly west accent, though he reduces it considerably here making feel far more natural to the character, time and place. Although both characters are lawmen, Bridges's approach diverges greatly from that earlier performance, in his portrayal of Marcus.

Again with the whole setup being that this is going to be Marcus's last case this might seem similar to Tommy Lee Jones's work in No Country For Old Men, a film this one is often compared to, despite being very different in terms of theme and tone. The comparison of the two lawful characters is particularly mistaken as Jones's Sheriff Bell has become spent working the job where that's not the case for Marcus. Bridges from his first scene importantly adds this certain energy about the man when he hears about the case. I rather love the approach as he's not tired to hear of another crime, rather he's kind of excited about getting something to do. Bridges brings a real enthusiasm to the role suggesting that Marcus very much enjoys being a lawman. In the scenes where Marcus investigates what happened at the bank there is a real comfort that Bridges brings. He not only gives the sense of the wisdom that Marcus has garnered over the year, but also the sense of ease as he does his duty with. Bridges presents a man who is most home when he's tracking down law breakers.

The film is presented as dueling stories with two sets of duos. The brothers, and the two Texas Rangers. Although the story moves forward in both it also fleshes out the relationship of each pair. On the law side with have Bridges's Marcus and his "supportive" friend of Birmingham's Alberto. The two are great together because what they offer is years of an old friendship in the perfect chemistry they have together. Honestly these scenes might not have worked at all if you did not believe their relationship. After all Marcus spends much of the time riffing on Alberto in every way he can think of including make various racial jokes about his Mexican and Comanche heritage. Every word spoken between them and just every reaction feels just so genuine with both actors. The effortlessness of it is all key in that Bridges technically doesn't exactly sugarcoat the insults by any margin, but it is balanced so well by Birmingham's reactions of just a slight smile and a head shake. In turn Bridges matches that by portraying only a real joy in Marcus when Alberto manages a good comeback or insult himself.

There is rich history established by both actors and you just feel it in every moment they have together. Although there is never a "you know I love yah you big lug moment", the real love between the two is just an unsaid truth. Bridges and Birmingham in turn actually really make the more philosophical dialogue of the film also work. In that they both essentially find any tone works because of how real the friendship feels and just breaking off into any given discussion seems normal. They don't only make them come about in a honest way though but it helps to ensure some real gravitas to these conversations. Whether it is Marcus pondering on a group of cowboys actually alone in the world, or Alberto pondering on the way it seems one group just merely steals everything from another, they earn them. They never come off as too much because of the conviction in their delivery but also in the reaction of each man understanding the other. Although they can just as easily be more than a little humorous such as with Bridges's annoyed breakdown of a television preacher, against Birmingham's portrayal of Alberto's exasperated reaction to essentially being preached at himself. They are such an endearing pair.

The main story is never forgotten, and I love the way Bridges's work so effectively attaches why it seems personal to him. As Marcus talks about potential retirement opportunities with Alberto. Bridges is great as there is no future in his eyes as he speaks about how none of the ideas really are suitable to him. What's so good though is that Bridges does not depict this as depression for Marcus rather it's simply not something that will suit him. Bridges gives us Marcus as someone who just really was meant always to be a lawman. There is one particularly pivotal moments when Marcus jokes about getting killed in a gunfight in order to die in a what he describes as a blaze of glory. Again Bridges's delivery of this is key in that it is technically more than half joking, but Bridges also carefully doesn't deliver it as though this is some suicidal death wish. Bridges brings this pride in it, as he knows something like this won't happen, but that he knows what he's doing now is the only thing he can connect with. This is only reinforced when it seems they might have figured out the robbers' plan, as Bridges brings such an earnest thrill of a man doing not only what he's good at but also what he loves to do.

Eventually all of this leads to two showdowns, the first being with Tanner in a sniper's position, acting as a distraction for Toby to get away. Marcus and Alberto arrive on the scene where Alberto is shot and killed by Tanner. Bridges's reaction is absolutely devastating as you see the years of friendship in his face as he writhes in anguish looking down at his dead friend. I have to say what the two actors did makes this scene all the more potent, and knowing the end result only made it hit me all the harder upon second viewing. Marcus though is forced to react quickly in order to stop Tanner, getting into a duel of sorts by flanking him at another sniper's position. Bridges is downright amazing in the scene. In the moment he portrays the physical exhaustion of the climb to reach the position, the violent anger at the man who killed his friend as pulls the triggers, then even the thrill of his accomplishment after he successfully avenges Alberto, Bridges though in the moment of triumph so brilliantly then breaks this into such a terrible sadness as he shows that once again he is only left with the loss of his friend. Quite honestly in that moment Bridges does more to realize the hollowness of revenge through a performance, than some actors that have an entire film do. The film still has one more showdown, between the two lead characters of the film, as a now retired Marcus goes to confront Toby who he's sure was the mastermind behind the robberies. Bridges is outstanding in this scene. Although no blood is spilled, and the actual direction of the scene is fairly low key you could cut the tension with a knife. The actors provide it offering such intensity with Bridges so quietly realizing Marcus's disgust towards Toby's since his actions indirectly caused Alberto's death. I love the way Bridges handles the scene as he presents the "Sheriff" as he  has this assurance in front of Toby exhibiting a confidence fitting for a man with a real sense of justice. Bridges doesn't simplify it though as he carries an underlying nervousness in his being. Bridges suggests in this that Marcus is contemplating in his mind whether or not to take action. They do not exchange gunfire but they do exchange words with almost as much power ending with veiled threats that they will trade more than words at a later date. Bridges is incredible as he gives the strength to Marcus's words as he returns the offer to "give peace" to Toby, but also infuses it with this bleak pathos in his eyes showing that this is all Marcus has left to look forward to in his life. This is a phenomenal performance by Jeff Bridges. He transcends the trope of the old law man, elevating it to another level to give such a vivid and powerful depiction of man, not just the idea of one.

69 comments:

Robert MacFarlane said...

Oh goddammit, RIP John Hurt.

Louis Morgan said...

RIP John Hurt. One of the best.

Luke Higham said...

FUCK NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. :( :( :( I'm utterly devastated right now.

Louis Morgan said...

Really stings after having just watched Jackie.

Luke Higham said...

R.I.P. John Hurt :(

Robert MacFarlane said...

I knew it was going to happen soon. Pancreatic cancer doesn't stay in remission for long. Still doesn't make it any less hard.

Anonymous said...

RIP to one of the greatest actors of all time.

Anonymous said...

R.I.P. John Hurt :((

Charles Heiston said...

Holy fuck, One of my favorite actors. R.I.P John Hurt. =(

Calvin Law said...

Oh John.

RIP.

Robert MacFarlane said...

See anymore 2016 movies, Louis?

Alex Marqués said...

FUCK. R.I.P. Sir John Hurt.

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

Rest in Peace, John Hurt

Mitchell Murray said...

I thought you'd give him a lower grade given your grades of his previous nominations, but this is welcomed surprise. I've been saying the same thing ever since I've watched the movie - this is a very good late career Jeff Bridges performance.

Patel's up last.. he could make it or break it at this point, what with the lowest score being 3.5.

94dfk1 said...

RIP John Hurt

Louis: Cast for a 1990s version of Silence?

Robert MacFarlane said...

I think Louis will at least like Patel. He shows much, MUCH more range than he usually does.

Deiner said...

Oh my God John Hurt! And I watched Jackie yesterday, it really saddens me.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Not anything worth noting.

94dk1:

Rodrigues: Ralph Fiennes
Garupe: Linus Roache
Ferreira: Peter O'Toole
Kichijiro: Ken Watanabe
The Interpreter: Koji Yakusho
Inoue Masashige: Tatsuya Nakadai

Anonymous said...

Louis could I get your cast and director for a 1980's Hell or High Water and La La Land?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Are you moving onto lead now.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Hell or High Water 1980's Directed by Peter Weir:

Toby: Kurt Russell
Tanner: James Woods
Alberto: Will Sampson
Marcus: Kirk Douglas

La La Land directed by Hebert Ross:

Mia: Michelle Pfeiffer
Sebastian: John Travolta

Luke:

Hold on for just a bit.

Matt Mustin said...

Excellent performance, and great to see Bridges finally get a 5.

P.S. R.I.P John Hurt, one of the greatest actors who ever lived.

Anonymous said...

Robert: Although i haven't seen Lion, I don't have much hope for Patel. After he gave one of the worst performances of all time in Slumdog Millionaire, I can't imagine that he changed.

Charles Heiston said...

Anonymous: Although he's been horrible in the past, I could see him giving a heartfelt turn.

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Anonymous: So basically you just assume bad faith of my opinion and that I'm lying? Okay dude.

Anonymous said...

Robert: Actually......That's not at all what i said.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 1990's Manchester By The Sea.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Glad we agree on Bridges. It's really a great performance.

R.I.P. John Hurt

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

Manchester by the Sea 1990's directed by Lasse Hallstrom:

Lee: Michael Keaton
Patrick: Leonardo DiCaprio
Joe: John Heard
Randi: Julianne Moore
Elise: Mary McDonell

Psifonian said...

"You'll never be done with it, no matter what. It's gonna haunt you, son, for the rest of your days. But you won't be alone. It's gonna haunt me, too."

Bridges has never been better. He may be the Dude, but this performance--a crisp, mellow fusion of Rooster Cogburn and Columbo--is a masterclass that should remind us how much of a goddamn talent Jeff is. We take him for granted. I like Ali an awful lot, but Bridges should be cake-walking this category (well, without having seen Patel).

Here's my suggestion for an alternate cast for "Hell or High Water":

Joel Edgerton: Toby Howard
Jason Clarke : Tanner Howard
Kurt Russell: Marcus Hamilton
Graham Greene: Alberto Parker

Charles Heiston said...

Psifonian: This performance is simply his best. Funny, heartbreaking, and memorable.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I have more reservations on this performance than the rest of you. I think the earlier portions of his performance do rely a tad much on his post-Crazy Heart screen persona. But, I'll fully concede his latter scenes were damn great.

Matt Mustin said...

That last scene is some of the best writing in any movie last year, I think.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

RIP John Hurt :'( :(. WHY?!

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I do wonder where Bridges and Pine will end up on the overall for the year though.

Calvin Law said...

I could imagine Bridges being close to the win overall for Lead, maybe #3. Also, hope Patel gets at least a 4.

Still not over John Hurt's passing.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

@Robert: I can totally see what you mean about Bridges' early scenes, but I felt he was much more impressive than usual as his shtick felt much more natural and relaxed than in, say, True Grit.

By the way I also agree with Robert that Louis will at least like Patel. I don't really see any reason why he should get any lower than a 4.

RatedRStar said...

Jeff Bridges has never won on this blog, I think that changes now

I urge people to see Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot =D he was absolutely winning in that, the most energetic performance he has ever givenn.

RIP John Hurt

RatedRStar said...

John Hurts death was not a surprise yet it still hurts so much, for me he never gave a bad performance ever, he was like the most friendly and respectful actor ever, everytime he spoke he had a gentlemens personality.

What was everybodys thoughts on Hurt in Jackie?

Anonymous said...

Kind of annoying how De Niro, who hasn't been great in years, constantly gets rated over consistently great actors like Bridges just because of his collaborations with Scorsese.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

R.I.P. Emmanuelle Riva

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

R.I.P Emmanuelle Riva. My god, this year is coming with renewed vengeance.

Calvin Law said...

RIP Emmanuelle Riva.

Alex Marqués said...

RIP Emmanuelle Riva

RatedRStar said...

RIP Emmanuelle Riva


Can we please stop, what is this

Luke Higham said...

R.I.P. Emmanuelle Riva

Varun Neermul said...

I don't get affected that often... but fuck.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Go to bed with John Hurt dead and a refugee ban, wake up to Emmanuelle Riva dead. Lovely.

Varun Neermul said...

Robert: Refugee band?

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Varun: Trump just signed an Executive Order yesterday banning immigrants and refugees from certain Muslim countries. It's the most shameful thing this country has done since the Japanese internment camps of WW2.

Varun Neermul said...

Oh my...

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Robert: If Bangladesh is one of them, there goes my dreams of applying for Harvard in a few years :/

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: Bangladesh is not one of them, so you can rest easy.

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Tahmeed: Thankfully it isn't. The countries are Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Lybia, Somalia, and Yemen. Still, stay informed. You never know what this psychotic manbaby will do.

Calvin Law said...

Robert and Tahmeed: That's awful for both people of the country and people who might want to move/study there...I'm so sorry.

Saw Trainspotting 2. It was a good tribute to the original. Nothing great, probably won't stay in my top 10 by the end of the year, but if you liked the lads you'll like 'em again.

McGregor: 3.5
Miller: 3.5
Bremmer: 3.5
Carlyle: 4 (despite having the least screentime)
Nedyalkova: 3

Deiner said...

Wtf? R.I.P. Emmanuelle Riva :(

Calvin Law said...

Also, Louis: Have you bumped Birmingham up?

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: What was he originally?

Luke Higham said...

Matt Mustin: He was a 4 on the initial viewing.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: If all else fails, I've been able to find a torrent of Lion to review Patel-
https://thepiratebay.org/torrent/16945371/Lion.2016.DVDScr.XVID.AC3.HQ.Hive-CM8

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Since I have quite the exhausting week at school ahead, I doubt I'll be able to watch any more films this week, or comment that much. I'll still try.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: Good luck! :)

Charles Heiston said...

NOOO. R.I.P. Emmanuelle Riva.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: The Edge Of Seventeen is online.

Calvin Law said...

Again, shamelessly using Louis' comment section to plug (apologies sir):

http://actorvsactor.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/personal-rankings-best-supporting-actor.html

My supporting actor lineup, and full ranking of all the Best Supporting Actor performances I've seen this year.

And on a more solemn note,

http://directors-vision.com/2017/01/28/r-i-p-john-hurt/

Again, thank you Louis!

Calvin Law said...

Also, I've read and re-read this review a couple times and I think this might be one of the best one's I've read in a while on this blog, certainly up there with the Redgrave/Browning Version one.

Charles Heiston said...

Calvin: OMG! Call the cops! More sell advertising ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Hehe.

Charles Heiston said...

Calvin: Nice! a Kubozuka win. I love Leto's ranking too, Well deserved.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Thank you Calvin and Birmingham's now a 4.5.