Director: Ben Wheatley
By Kitty Turpin
Behind High-Rise’s sparkly exterior was an incredibly disappointing two hours of pretentious rubbish.
High-Rise, based on the novel by J. G. Ballard of the same name, follows the neurosurgeon Laing (Tom Hiddleston) and his life in a luxury high-rise building in an alternative futuristic 1970s. The floor you occupy denotes your social status, and though Laing isn’t all that high and mighty he has a respectful air about him – one that would make him an almost neutral spectator and, of course, our main character. The residents of the building become more obsessed with class status in the high-rise and throw more parties to accommodate as they slowly become disinterested in the outside world. As the essential amenities in the building become scarier on the lower levels, anarchy follows.
The overarching theme of this movie felt like an afterthought, when in fact it should have been at the core of the film. I must admit, I haven’t read Ballard’s High-Rise, but by judging other reviews, perhaps I should have. Maybe that would have filled in enough details to make this adaptation bearable. Though High-Rise starts off strong, as the characters slowly descend into chaos, the film sadly goes with it. I had no idea what the film was trying to achieve. We’ve seen its dark humour, jarring imagery and abstract themes utilised in much better ways. I couldn’t help but keep referring to scenes that were done better in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985).
The actors are great, and did what they could with what they had. Box office sales will sky rocket when Hiddleston’s fan club hear about how many sex scenes he’s in. Luke Evans is an incredible performer. In particular, his decent into madness feels more human, if that’s even possible, than the other characters.
If there is but one thing that is saving this movie from a zero it is the beautiful and coherent mise-en-scéne created by director Ben Wheatley and cinematographer Laurie Rose. There is thorough attention to detail in the 70s décor and architecture featured which creates an eye-pleasing backdrop for the film. If only High-Rise was a collection of these moving images, plain and bare, with no fiddling around, trying to grasp at a story.
High Rise really missed the target and I really wish it hadn’t, however with its content and star, Tom Hiddleston, it will definitely become a cult classic among some.