I LOVE good science fiction, especially the kind that goes outside the box, like "2001 A Space Odyssey," a true classic in its artsy, cerebral approach. "High Life" tries SOOO HARD to be that kind of movie, and the production is awesome, but its writing is flawed at its core, from the start. It was that horrible kind of movie that takes itself so seriously that I have to watch it to the end to see where it is going, only to realize it's not going anywhere and I wasted an hour and half of my life believing a false promise. I should have known better.
I'll start with the pros since that's a much shorter list. The cinematography has a few moments of brilliance and irony. A few. It has more moments of unintended absurdity, like the lighting on the spacecraft exterior that looks more like a contemporary living room and does not occur elsewhere. Binoche is as always endearing - in her acting, not her character, who is anything but endearing. She is a true witch here, a testament to her skill. I was embarrassed for her that her bucking bronco sex machine (literally, a masturbation machine she sits on) went on so long and tried so hard to be artsy. Pattinson is convincing but achieves it with that overdone posing that worked well for him in teen-targeted "Twilight," not so well here. The rest of the characters were shallow and wooden.
The brooding, slow, oh-so-meaningful pace initially yields some suspense that quickly turns into impatience. The spacecraft has NO sound, total silence inside, no whirring or buzzing or beeps, that makes it feel like a Broadway stage. There is the occasional nod to real science when the spacecraft approaches light speed and the stars appear to all move to the direction of travel. I would have liked some other cool and unexpected stuff to occur, but no. And very briefly when one of the characters drops into a black hole feet first, you see her feet stretch away from her as the gravity gradient increases violently, but the camera quickly returns to her bruised, bloody and completely unstretched face, since gross out is so much more important in this movie than science.
Good science fiction is based on good science - a fascinating and convincing premise that makes you go "wow!" - and then proceeds to blow your mind with twists that follow logically from this premise. There is no cool sciencey premise here, only a bunch of mentally unstable characters stuck in a space ship. It could as easily be a prison or an island.
It is easy for me to believe that the story was written around scenes, not a plot. We need some really graphic violence here, then a long sullen scene that seems to have some deep meaning but doesn't, leading into total gross out scene with lots of white sperm, shiny blood, and god knows what other bodily fluids. Oh, and don't forget a healthy dose of profanity. We need shock. Come to think of it, let's have a graphic rape scene with dim blue lighting, lots of screams and outrage. What? It's not believable? Don't worry about it, the audience will love it.
Wait, I got an idea - let's have Binoche rape Pattinson! Now that's original, a chick-rape! And they are so cute! Where can we throw that in? Plot be damned, full speed ahead. We'll make up for the complete lack of meaning and logical flow by making it so slow that viewers will figure it MUST have meaning, and give it an ending that makes no sense so they can supply their own.
Why did I waste my time with this movie? Because of the amazing reviews. In particular, I have tremendous respect for, and a great track record with, Roger Ebert (God rest his soul) reviews which gave this movie 4 out of 4 stars. It was dead wrong. If you read it you won't find much substance, just unfocused praise. Roger, your people totally let you down. He would have hated this movie and said why much better than I.
I wanted so badly to like this movie. There was nothing to like. There was hardly even anything to dislike. It is a vapid, empty shell of a movie with a spattering of gross-out sex and meaningless violence. Don't waste your time.