From beginning to end Inferno is an on-the-go thriller. The action opens with Dr Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in hospital with a concussion. In the midst of his confusion and weakness Langdon has visions that resemble judgment day terror, and flashbacks that seem to make no sense. It becomes apparent that he is being chased by three different lots of people because of a mysterious file in his possession. The attending doctor at the hospital, Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), helps Langdon escape their clutches and together the two dash across Italy and then further into Europe following one clue after another. Their journey takes them to religious shrines that date back to the infamous Middle Ages and the time of the Black Plague. A modern-day maniac, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), is linked to the file Langdon decodes, and it becomes apparent that Zobrist wants to unleash spores of that deadly ancient plague into the water system. By doing this he will wipe out half the Earth’s human beings, thus sorting out the problem of overpopulation and evil. Langdon and Brooks have limited time to find the virus and stop the attack.
Texas is the setting for this clever, slow-paced drama, in which two brothers set about righting the wrongs done to their family. And what a dreary place Texas turns out to be. Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine) cruise through its empty towns and dusty fields in one beaten-up car after another, all the while passing evidence of a modern-day recession. Businesses gone bust. Townsfolk in debt. Billboards featuring words like “Need a loan?” These signs all point to the focus of this story: the banks. Hell or High Water gives us a sort of sideways take on the 2008 financial scandal in which banks were blamed for the housing bubble. Here we see how the banks have a hold on ordinary people in Texas and bleed them dry through exorbitant interest rates and merciless calling in of loans. Contemporary Scrooges if you will.
The Howard brothers aim for Texas Midlands Bank and begin robbing several branches of small amounts at a time. They then cover their tracks before going back to the bank as “upright” citizens to pay off their debts. Because the characters are motivated by familial love the viewer definitely roots for the two robbers. In fact, the pair represent the attitudes of many of the ordinary folk who have struggled against generations of poverty, and have a strong antipathy towards these institutions.
A tired old law-enforcement officer, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), works out what the brothers are doing and patiently lays in wait for them, following them around the county to catch them.
The action and setting in Hell or High Water is suffocatingly slow at times. And the story could well be seen simply as an old one dressed in a new guise. But it’s clever. And the modern concerns, juxtaposed with flagrant racist insults, and genuinely struggling people make for absorbing and relevant viewing. Chris Pine and Ben Foster both present their characters with realism and believability.
Hell or High Water opens at cinemas in South Africa on 4 November 2016.
All I could remember about the film I was about to preview was that it was about a boat. As we switched our cell phones to silent another reviewer reminded me that it was based on a true story. I was surprised, therefore, to see the Disney logo come up on screen as I adjusted the 3D glasses I had, for once, remembered to bring. My expectations were primed: a story that would doubtless have a happy ending and one with great cinematic effects. I was right. And the journey there was a fine one indeed.