Hell or High Water

Where have I been? Drowning in a pit of screenwriting despair - also known as Resistance, coined by Steven Pressfield (if you haven't read The War of Art, I highly suggest you do). But really, it’s been a weird couple of months. Perhaps shorter. I’ve completely lost track of time this year but I cannot believe it’s June, and if we’re being honest, that actually makes me feel a little bit sick.

I'm trying to get back into it, and just keep swimming, one day at a time. That’s all we can do, right? There’s no point in looking beyond that but just keep putting one arm in front of the other, with some sort of direction in mind. I feel envious of the 12-year-old me, for whom resistance didn’t exist, and I just wrote whatever the hell I wanted. I’d love that no-shits-given attitude back any day (I’m working on it, it’s a process).

Anyway, I thought I’d write up my notes from Hell or High Water by Taylor Sheridan. Fell head-over-heels with the exposition in this screenplay. I love the way Sheridan writers the underlying narrative surrounding the dialogue, as if he plays a distinctively separate character in the screenplay; i.e. that of the narrator. We’re introduced to the story world through Archer City in Texas which sets the tone for the entire screenplay.

The protagonists of the story, Toby and Tanner Hanson, are from the offset, polar opposites in every way. This is depicted brilliantly through the scene where the ‘throbbing lights’ of the sheriff’s vehicle approach, just after they’ve successfully robbed the First Texas Bank in Archer City.

We're not left to rest before we're introduced to their world, or so it seems, of bank robberies and mayhem, all before 9am on a Tuesday morning. The Hanson brothers duo are equally met by their antagonist counterparts, Marcus and Parker, two Texas rangers. One line of dialogue, ‘…I may have one hunt left in me’, gets the wheels going.

Thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of the story; a duel between the good and the bad side of the law. You get everything that the Hanson brothers stand for, and yet you’re with the Texas ranger on the wrong side of retirement and his ally. The second act plot twist where the audience is ahead of the brothers (for the first time) is perfect - Toby and Tanner think they’re walking into an empty bank. However, we, the reader / audience, see the bigger picture - a carpark full of cars and we know exactly what they’re about to walk into, but it’s too late. This sets the third act into motion beautifully and sets the scene for the final battle.

What did you think of Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Hell or High Water’? Join the conversation over on Instagram (@SundayScriptClub).


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