A kidnap. Ransom. It all feels too familiar a topic but never treated as masterfully as High and Low.
High and Low shows us what Akira Kurosawa wants us to see. It isn't the kidnap that is so often the highlight of a thriller but rather, the spotlight shines on every emotional struggle that Kingo Gondo (Toshirô Mifune) has to make to ensure a smooth negotiation.
Gondo is a stake owner of a major shoe company, National Shoes. He is wealthy, albeit down to earth as he rose from a lower class shoemaker into the Gondo that occupies the solitary Mansion that towers like a castle over the peasantry.
His despicable peers want Gondo in on a team up that would put decision making into their collective hands over an old man that calls the shots in the group. The cheap plans of Gondo's peers offended his principle and pride to deliver an honest National shoes. His peers scoffed away at Gondo and contemptuously lamented Gondo's stubbornness.
However, Gondo has secretly negotiated to buy over major shares of National shoes that had landed him in a major bank loan and debt. Soon after, Gondo is informed that his son was kidnapped and the kidnapper had demanded a huge ransom. Gondo immediately agrees. However, he realizes later that his son is present but the one that was being taken away would be his driver's son who is a dear playmate of his own blood.
Gondo is put into a moral conundrum that threatens his ambitions and image. He has to juggle the best decision for his ambitions as well as the safety of his driver's child.
High and Low shows us the basics of narrative presentation in its most simplistic manner that starkly contrasts with its troubled characters. This method allowed the prime focus of the film to revolve around character development.
Its moral compass and exemplary use of basic film techniques brought a master thriller of philosophical proportions.