HIGH LIFE (2018, streaming on Netflix) rolls out like an art-house, haunting, punk response to Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It’s weird, slow, and difficult, but it achieves an incredible look and vibe I found hypnotic, and I quite liked it.
Monte (Robert Pattinson, who with a string of great performances has thoroughly outgrown his TWILIGHT baggage) is one of the crew of 07, a spaceship fired out of the solar system to explore a black hole, a mission that may help solve Earth’s energy crisis. The entire crew, we learn, are convicts who volunteered for this world-saving mission to avoid the death penalty. The captain is nominally in charge, but the real leader is Dr. Dibbs (Juliette Binoche), who is conducting in vitro experiments in an attempt to make babies in space despite the radiation killing them off.
Realizing this is likely a one-way trip and is definitely just an extended stay in prison, the crew are sullen, solitary, and seething with repressed desires and hatreds. When they finally explode, Monte must use his self-control to survive and achieve a final redemption and escape.
The film has a great look to it. The spaceship is Brutalist in its design, falling apart after years in space, a perfect backdrop and cage for angry, good-looking people on the verge to show us an experiment in the dark side of humanity. There’s a weird, almost surreal logic to the overall mission and what little communication they still have with Earth. The ending offers a conclusion but not necessarily one that offers a satisfying closure, though I was good with it–honestly, it’s the only ending that makes sense.
Check it out if you’re looking for a very dark, trippy sci-fi movie about the human ape in space, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY with a dash of punk and LORD OF THE FLIES.