Paul Malikkal

Review

High and Low (1963)

Paul Malikkal

A labyrinthine nail-biter that somehow subverts thriller tropes, while also being a gold standard for the genre. It unfolds largely in long, patient scenes (which themselves unfold in long, patient takes); we meet the kidnapper before the investigators do; there's hardly an action set-piece in sight. Yet these subversions give the film its unique rhythm-- long scenes propelled by careful parsing out of information. Its approach to time also sets it apart from more conventional thrillers. Often the concept of the ticking clock in Thrillers equates to "if we don't find the killer fast enough, he'll kill again." Here it seems time is a sort of arbitrary obstacle to justice e.g., how the timing of being reimbursed for borrowed ransom money affects one's ability to lend that money to save your friend's child, how managing to trick the kidnapper into staying on the phone a few seconds longer could lead to his arrest, how waiting till you have the right evidence can lead to a criminal serving far more time behind bars, etc.

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