Two brothers rob banks in Texas, and don't do a great job oft it, in "Hell or High Water," starring Ben Foster and Chris Pine. It's from the British director David Mackenzie, who creates both levity and tension in his modest thriller.
The sequence here is the film's opening scene. In an interview, Mr. Mackenzie explained why finding a bank to film a robbery in was difficult and how to film a speeding car with an actor at the wheel. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.
What were your goals for the scene?
The idea was to set up the world of the film, small-town Texas, seemingly quite sleepy. I wanted to do it in a single shot.
Where did you shoot the scene?
This was in Clovis, N.M., three miles from the Texas border. The film is set in Texas, but for economic reasons we shot in New Mexico. I was keen to make it as Texan as possible. Clovis is a cattle town. It really could be Texas.
The space is a former bank. It's now some kind of internet or cable company. A lot of banks were uncomfortable letting us shoot bank robbery scenes in them, so we were lucky to find former banks that still had most of their features in place.
What made you interested in a Texas movie?
I loved the script. It had great characters and a great sense of place. It had a sense of understanding for the dispossessed and I [was] really drawn to the subject matter. It felt like a great opportunity for me as a foreigner to attempt to make a great American movie with a lot of the themes that seem to run along the fault line of contemporary America.
Could you talk about the decision to first show the film's protagonists in masks?
You're with the person who's face you can see. You don't know the intimidating men in masks at all. So there's a bit of fear and tension building. But the woman is defiant and there's room for a little bit of humor in her defiance. The humor breaks some of the tension, but these are still guys with guns.
When they leave the bank, how did you follow along with the speeding car?
The camera is on a motorbike with a stabilizing rig. It was a hell of a lot of rehearsal with the cinematographer, quite a struggle. But because the motorbike rig is not very big, it can cross both sides of the path of the car. The driver has to be aware of it as well. That's actually Ben Foster doing the driving. There's no stunt man involved.
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