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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

High and Low (1963)



Reviews and Comments

Akira Kurosawa's High and Low just might be the first forensic science procedural, at least in the form we recognize it today. A child is kidnapped, and the middle chunk of the film goes into fascinating detail showing us how clues are unearthed, deductions formed, and investigations uncovered. On this basis alone, the film is a great entertainment.

But it is so much more, too. The real heart of the film lies in the moral consciences of the characters. Consider that the kidnapped child was thought to be the son of a rich businessman. A steep ransom is demanded, but the businessman knows the truth: his own son is fine. It's the son of his chauffeur who was taken. The chauffeur cannot possibly afford the ransom, but isn't that his problem? The chauffeur, meanwhile, has a dilemma of his own. He already owes much to the businessman. Can he ask that he pay the ransom too, without hope of ever being paid back for it? It's not just the money, anyhow: it's that the timing is such that even a temporary loss of funds will cause the businessman to lose control of his company, a company he helped build and takes pride in, to corporate bandits who just want to plunder it.

These character crises take place in parallel with a police investigation that must be kept hidden from the kidnappers, who seem to see and know everything that goes on. There are numerous deceptions and con games from both sides, trying to get a leg up on the other, and the film winds up in some strange and unexpected places. It all adds up to an exciting, unpredictable, and profoundly human story.