Sunday, 5 February 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2016: Chris Pine in Hell or High Water

Chris Pine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Toby Howard in Hell or High Water.

Chris Pine and Gil Birmingham have gone to be somewhat unsung elements of Hell or High Water playing the less flashy side of the central duos of the robbers and the cops. Pine, despite his fairly high profile as an actor, went unnoticed for the most part where Jeff Bridges as the Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton, and Ben Foster as Toby's brother Tanner basically were the only actors to receive best supporting actor wins from critical bodies without the name Mahershala Ali. What about Pine though, a slightly underrated actor actually since some just take him as a bland leading man, evidently those people have never seen him in his collaborations with Joe Carnahan. This though does gives himself the chance the prove he can thrive without going partially insane. This is the type of role though that does not often get an actor noticed though, even though he plays the co-lead, some even argue sole lead, along with Jeff Bridges, he is the far more understated role when compared to the flashier nature of Bridges's and Foster's characters.

Pine plays the role of the lead robber Toby who actually is the one that sets the story in motion by coming up with the plan to steal from the bank that holds their family's ranch's mortgage in order to pay off the debt to the same bank that was accrued by their recently deceased mother in order to also keep the recently discovered oil on the land. Toby though is new to this recruiting his ex-con brother Tanner, with a past in robbery, in order to pull off the jobs. In this Pine is very effective in portraying this straight shooter attempting to be a criminal. In the robbery scenes, even though his face is covered, Pine is very good in just bringing this physical awkwardness to everything he does. The way he holds a gun on the people in the bank has this lack of confidence alluding to the the idea that the man not only hasn't done it before, but is not at all comfortable with endangering others. Pine brings the right hesitation in it, making so even when he finally fires a gun during the robbery he shows it to be such a flimsy desperate act, as he is clearly still trying not to hurt someone who is definitely trying to hurt him.

Although it is also easy enough to overlook that, what really makes this performance special is its Gary Cooperesque quality, though of course I mean more that idea of a Gary Cooperesque quality that is apparently suppose exist in Gary Cooper. Pine work so well in the limits of his portrayal of Toby, which purposefully never breaks the style of the character. In that Toby is a man of few words, and Pine respects that with his minimalist portrayal. He keeps his approach as very internalized and feels very authentic of this Texan man who is just trying to do what he believes is the right thing to do. Pine portrays no real thrill in the act itself, even creating the sense of a certain reluctance to it despite the fact that it is Toby's idea. Pine makes this make sense though as his portrayal captures this specific individualistic morality in Toby. Pine in the way he speaks of the plan creates the sense of the righteousness of his passion but also his understanding that what the act entails is not wholly moral. There is a great moment where Toby tells one of his sons that he should believe whatever they say about him, its an incredible moment for Pine as in his voice there is this conviction that what he is doing is the right thing but has to do it in the wrong way.

I will save some of what I have to say in regards to the central relationship of Toby and Tanner for another review. I will say though Pine on his end is absolutely fantastic as the "good brother". He never simplifies the relationship. He portrays the connection, even with some surprisingly effective bit of humor in there, but also the distance as they are men of a very different nature. Again more on that soon enough, but it should be sufficient to say that Pine is excellent on his end of crafting this layered and rich history the two men share. The main conflict though being that Tanner's motivations are not nearly as pure as Toby's. Pine again, in his so subtle way, keeps this conflict as a constant. In the robberies, only when we see Toby's eyes, Pine is terrific in portraying that concern as he believes that his brother could possibly go too far at any given point. When he does go too far we get really the only moment where Pine breaks from his more understated approach, which is wholly earned since Toby is suffering from bullet wound as well at the time. Pine delivers the palatable anguish in his scream, as well as the direct pain, as Toby realizes it has gone too far.

Pine's work though is so much quieter but this in no way mutes his impact at any point. Although again more on that relationship later, but it is Pine who finalizes it. It is a heartbreaking moment for Pine as he portrays the sadness in hearing about his brother's final end. What makes it so moving though is the way Pine shows it is less as a surprise but more of an acceptance of something he knew was going to happen eventually. Now in my review of Bridges's work I praised his final scene in particular, which is one of the best scenes of 2016 in terms of writing, directing and acting. That acting includes Pine just as much as it does Bridges. Something that makes the scene so compelling is how we understand exactly what is going on with both man. Pine is amazing in the scene as he matches Bridges in bringing that underlying intensity. Both actors are so good at essentially giving this understanding between the two men even though it is never precisely stated. It's quite something that it is one of the most tension filled scene in years but there's basically no music, no one raises their voice, and no violence occurs. Bridges and Pine again are so pivotal to this. There is a glint of hatred in his eyes that conveys exactly what Marcus took away from Toby. Pine does not let that define his work though. There's far more as he portrays an unease in Toby as though he is attempting to decipher the old man's intentions exactly as they speak. When Marcus presses Toby for his motivation, Pine is truly remarkable as subtly portrays the moral compromise but also the moral conviction in just the most minor facial gestures, and his gentle delivery. We know exactly where both men stand due to their performances, and that is what makes their final trade off leave such an impact. Pine and Bridges allows us to sympathize with both man as they leave with their haunting offerings of "peace". Pine's work here should not be overlooked when discussing the film. He gives a captivating performance, that is not overshadowed which very easily could have been when ole Ben Foster your co-star. Pine though also makes us emphasize wholly with Toby as he never simplifies the man, or the decision that he makes.

57 comments:

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm not quite as impressed with the film as you were, but I do love Pine's work here. I've always liked him (especially in absurdist comic roles), but I never expected such lived-in weariness, internalized sadness, and complete trust in his audience to pick up on all of it. In fact, reading this review reminded me just how much I appreciate his work.

Luke Higham said...

Very impressive work from Chris Pine. Can't wait for Edgerton's review, which should hopefully be coming next.

Mitchell Murray said...

Pine may not be the best actor but I do think he has his moments. This was most certainly one of them.

Some career highlights for me would be this, Z for Zachariah and even Star Trek Into Darkness

Matt Mustin said...

He's a 4.5 for me. I did think he was very good, especially in that last scene.

Charles Heiston said...

Great performance here. 5 star worthy.

Calvin Law said...

I just remembered, Joe Mantell's review is still my favourite review of all time by Louis. Check it out folks.

Yeah Pine was very good. Not sure I'd go as high as a 5 but I was certainly impressed.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: would be funny if you did Edgerton's review in that format, but have him respond, 'I don't have anything to say.'

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Brilliant, brilliant work from Chris Pine here. He's my #4 for Best Actor this year (tied with Bridges). While I love this year's nominees, it breaks my heart that Pine didn't get more recognition for this outstanding performance.

94dfk1 said...

When everyone thinks you're just another bland leading man in Hollywood so you take a challenging role and actually pull it off but you're overshadowed by Ben Freaking Foster and The Dude...

He was really good though, especially the last scene. The fact that he was awkwardly robbing the banks so to speak was lost on me until I read this review.

Alex Marqués said...

Very solid turn by him, he should have received more attention for this role.

Alex Marqués said...

By the way, my top 5 for Best Actor so far would be:
1. Affleck
2. Garfield (Silence)
3. Washington
4. Edgerton
5. Bridges/Mortensen (can't decide yet)

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I would give a 4.5, but yes it's a terrific performance and I'm glad you loved him.

moviefilm said...

I personally think Pine was way too overshadowed by Bridges and especially Foster. He's a 3.5 for me.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I find it interesting that I'm the least enthusiastic about the film on the blog and thought Pine was an easy MVP.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your top ten TV episodes of 2016.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Are you gonna see Free Fire?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I'm sure he will, whenever he get's the chance. Also it's a 2017 theatrical release.

Charles Heiston said...

Surprised barely anyone here thinks he's 5 star worthy. I guess i'm in the minority.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: I think he's worthy. I had no doubt whatsoever of him getting a five.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: And I think he might just sneak into the top five along with Garfield, Bridges, Mortensen and Washington.

Calvin Law said...

Unrelated but I re-watched Nocturnal Animals and not only is it officially my choice for worst film of the year, I think it might be the worst film of the decade. Not necessarily in terms of quality of production or acting, I guess, but thematically I think it's probably the nastiest (and not intentionally so) motion picture to come out in a while.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: I'm thinking Edgerton will be the one to get in over Gosling. I don't know, just a feeling, though I do think the Goose will be in the top 5. After reevaluating his performance I realize I'd be fine with an Oscar win for him too.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I knew that it was your worst film of the year for awhile now, but how many times have you watched it.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: 3 times now, God knows why. This time round the acting all dropped off significantly too, I actually find Shannon and Taylor Johnson kind of mediocre now (will bump em down), and Gyllenhaal downright awful (he reminded me of the Things are Worse than Ever cop in TDK upped several antes). Honestly, I genuinely think Amy Adams came out best from it all now, especially if you (rightly) sympathize with her character

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I'd fear for one's sanity if you watched it time and time again. Once was enough for me.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

My last rewatch of Nocturnal Animals really destroyed it for me. I think Adams is very good and as Calvin said she deserves credit for making you sympathize with Susan, and I still love Taylor-Johnson's performance. The rest though... No.

Charles Heiston said...

After a rewatch of Nocturnal Animals, it got even worse. Each performance is down to a 2. Except Shannon.

Psifonian said...

People are rewatching "Nocturnal Animals"? You poor souls.

Robert MacFarlane said...

You could not pay me to ever watch Nocturnal Animals again.

Calvin Law said...

Pattinson and Robert: It wasn't for fun I assure you, I was foraging for ammunition this third time round.

Calvin Law said...

*Psifonian

Charles Heiston said...

Psifonian: I was just trying to get closure for how bad it was.

Anonymous said...

Charles: Your rating for the film now?

Charles Heiston said...

Anonymous:
Nocturnal Animals - 1
Taylor-Johnson - 2
Shannon - 3
Adams - 2
Gyllenhaal - 1.5

Alex Marqués said...

C'mon guys, stop hate-watching that one and check out new stuff.

Calvin Law said...

Alex: Gonna check out Toni Erdmann tomorrow :)

Luke Higham said...

Alex: Agreed. I'm fed up with that film being brought up all the time. If you absolutely hate it, why watch it again. Let's be positive and talk about whatever films we look forward to seeing this year. We've got John Wick: Chapter 2, Logan and Beauty and the Beast coming out soon.

Luke Higham said...

As well as films that we did enjoy this past year.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Nocturnal Animals is only the third worst 2016 movie I saw. Batman v. Superman will always have a special place of pure scorn in my heart.

Charles Heiston said...

Alex: I'll be seeing Split soon.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Oh yeah, I saw Split. Didn't do much for me, but McAvoy is fun.

Luke Higham said...

I've seen T2 and I want to see Split, solely for McAvoy.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: With a on/off director like Shyamalan you never know what to expect.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Aside from Jackman's performance, I'm not expecting anything great about Logan.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

1. "Winds of Winter" - Game of Thrones
2. "Battle of the Bastards - Game of Thrones
3. "The Day in Question" - 11.22.63
4. "The Beach" - The Night Of
5. "The Original" - Westworld
6. "The Rabbit Hole" - 11.22.63
7. "Tromp L'Oeil" - Westworld
8. "The Call of the Wild" - The Night Of"
9. "The Disappearance of Will Byers" - Stranger Things
10. "Gloves Off" - Better Call Saul

Calvin:

Hope you like old Erdmann more than I did.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Is Hardy still your favorite supporting performance of the decade for Revenant?

Anonymous said...

All my hopes are put into Split.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby as actors? Personally, I think they're better singers.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: regarding the ending of 11.22.63's finale, isn't that just one of the most beautiful endings ever on television.

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

Feels like a question for a bit later on.

Anonymous:

I'd agree. They both can be bizarrely unappealing in their lighter roles, Sinatra can sometimes seem a bit adrift while Crosby far too smug. I will say based on the Country Girl Crosby did have dramatic potential but I haven't seen any other turns of that sort outside of it though. Sinatra's early dramatic work was pretty weak but I will say when he got older he gradually got better.

Calvin:

Yes it is.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your updated top ten performances list for the decade is gonna be very interesting.

I think Kubozuka has overtaken Hardy.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: I'll be looking forward to that list after alternate 2016.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

While I do give Hardy a 5 for The Revenant, he's not the best of the decade for me. My choice would actually come down to Kubozuka, JK Simmons and Christopher Walken for Seven Psychopaths.

Calvin Law said...

My favourite of the decade is easily Stallone in Creed, with Walken, Simmons, Strong and Hoult rounding up my top 5.

Charles Heiston said...

My favorite supporting performances of the deacde is between 3. Hardy, Kubozuka, and Walken. And the rest of the top 5 would be Strong at 4th. And Neeson at 5th.

Anonymous said...

Louis: While Crosby did great in The Country Girl, who do you think could have been better in the role?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

I don't know, he was kind of perfectly cast as a broken crooner.