One week after the election that saw Donald J. Trump chosen as the 45th President of the United States, me and my two best friends took a road trip from California to North Carolina.
We drove across miles and miles of barren landscape. We passed through ghost towns, more deserted than the ones that make up the heart of Hell or High Water. We heard stories, sad stories, about poverty encroaching entire regions and turning its inhabitants poor in a nation that is the richest in the world.
The magnificent Hell or High Water is not only a Western, but a document on the extinction of a way of life. You see it with the cowboys running from a fire, driving their cattle to safety across the highway.
“No wonder my kids don’t want to do this as a living”, one of them yells at no one particular.
You see it with the waitress who refuses to give up her tip, made up of stolen bank money, because otherwise she will not be able to afford her mortgage and keep a roof on top of her daughter’s head.
You even see it with bank robbers themselves, when an old diner patron mentions that robbing banks in the 21st century seems entirely out of place.
The film appears to indict the capitalist financial institutions of the United States, who have been given carte blanche to wager with other peoples money, and don’t have to worry about losing it because uncle Sam will bail them out. But who is behind the banks, if not people themselves?
One of the character bemoans the fact that the land they are on used to belong to his ancestors before conquistadors arrived and slaughtered them all. He then says the same thing is happening to small towns across the country, but this time violence is not the culprit, but greed.
Near the end of the film, an old bank worker is reluctant to fax some documents over to a lawyer. The documents state that the loan the bank had given out has been paid in full just in time, so the property will remain in the client’s possession.
Why does the old man do this? What does he gain, besides maybe a bonus for delaying the proceedings? The property, and all the oil on it, will not go to him, but to an unknown person, or group of people, who thrive to make money.
So perhaps it is not the banks that are to blame, but every single human being who would choose money over culture, profit over dignity.
Foreclosures rise, despair sets in, and people end up voting for the billionaire who promises to make their sad, pathetic little towns great again.