Consider this: to help reduce overpopulation, you’re given the option to shrink yourself to five inches tall and join others like you. In return, you’ll live in a miniature society that can accommodate your every want and need… would you take the plunge?
This is the premise for upcoming Boxing Day film Downsizing starring Matt Damon, and it makes me wonder; what other obscure film concepts are out there for us to consume? Here’s a list of high concept films for your to contemplate and enjoy.
The Lobster (2015)
For anyone who’s single right now, this might not be the film for you… unless you’re really into animals. In the world of The Lobster, if you’re not married or in a committed relationship, then you’ve got 45 days to find a faithful partner who loves you completely, otherwise you’ll be turned into an animal. But hey, at least you get to choose what you turn into.
It’s a disturbing yet incredibly well-written film from the mind of Yorgos Lanthimos who also brought us this year’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Featuring a powerful lead performance from Colin Farrell, The Lobster is a film that takes a unique concept and extrapolates a range of horrifying outcomes, but by golly is it ever interesting to watch.
But ending up an animal wouldn’t be so bad… would it?
Let’s move to something simpler.
Here’s how things go down in Circle: you wake up in a room with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, and every few minutes someone dies. Now, what do you do…?
Circle comes from the minds of Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione, who terrorise 50 strangers for 90 minutes. Watching a whole film play out in a single room never becomes dull, thanks to the interactions between the 50 different characters. Think 12 Angry Men, but on a much larger scale.
While never boring, Circle is not without its flaws. Given its small budget, some of the performances are a little lacking, and the overall concept does have some plot holes, but if you’re open to an above average B-movie, look no further. It’s still better than a lot of the fodder Hollywood is churning out these days.
The Matrix (1999)
You can’t talk about high concept films without mentioning The Matrix. While it’s probably the most well-known film on the list, let’s dive in anyway.
What if I told you everything about your life is a lie? Your friends, family and all your memories are a complete lie. A computer coded lie – to be exact, because you’re in the matrix: a highly sophisticated, simulation model that uses individuals as fuel sources for a race of machines that have enslaved most of humanity. Shit just went to 100 real quick.
The Matrix is the Wachowski brother’s masterpiece and it changed the game of cinema. From extreme slow motion action scenes, to sci-fi dystopian concepts that have been replicated and referenced in countless films to date, The Matrix is an absolute watch for anyone.
The Truman Show (1998)
Speaking of game changing films, The Truman Show revolutionised TV through its scarily accurate prediction of the future. If you hate the reality show Big Brother, you have this film to thank for its conception.
Imagine waking up, having breakfast, going to work, enjoying your hobbies in the evening, then capping it off with a late-night movie before sleep. Basically, living a normal life, right? Except, throw in a thousand different cameras watching your every movement on a 24/7 live broadcast to the entire world.
Andrew Niccol’s genius (that is, before he made horrible pieces of crap like The Host and In Time), takes you into a world that’s filled with a cast of extras pretending to be everyday people you know and love, while everything built around you is a fabricated lie.
Although it contains similar themes to The Matrix, The Truman Show is far more light-hearted, offering Jim Carey a great opportunity to showcase his brand of humour. It’s far better than any Big Brother episode. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Exam may be the silliest film on this list.
You’ve been selected to attend a job interview for a powerful company. You enter a room with five others and sit down at a table with only a blank piece of paper and pen. An instructor comes in and says there’s only one question to answer. You must only write on your piece of paper and you mustn’t ruin it in any way by tearing it to pieces or folding. Any questions?
And that’s it. That’s how simple Exam is, but it leaves the characters wondering… what are they supposed to write? Was there something they missed? There’s five other people in the same boat as them, but how far will they go to figure it out before the others do? This is where Exam shines; it relies heavily on the dialogue between this small group of characters. It’s a far from perfect, low-budget movie, and the ending may leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth, but it’s definitely worth seeing and talking about.
Last, but not least, from the mind of the man who brought us Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, comes Enemy. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Jake Gyllenhaal in yet another fantastic performance, Enemy follows a man who discovers his doppelganger while watching a movie. Overcome with curiosity, he begins to follow his lookalike, only to find out more about himself than he ever bargained for.
Without giving too much away, this thought-provoking, psychological thriller takes the basic concept of a doppelganger and turns it into something so much more. You’ll probably need to view it a couple of times to get your head around it, as it’s one of those films that will leave you questioning its meaning at every turn.
Images courtesy of Sony Pictures, Netflix Inc., Roadshow Films, United International Pictures/Paramount Home Entertainment, 21st Century Pictures and Madman Entertainment.