We rarely get enough films these days that dare to be both bold and ambitious. So after seeing Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise three times now, I can most definitely assure you that this is a film that is bold, ambitious, chaotic, fucked-up to the bone — and then some.
Based on the 1975 novel by J.G Ballard, the film follows Dr. Robert Laing, played by Tom Hiddleston who is a young bachelor who has recently moved into a 70s modernist high-rise designed and presided over by the mysterious Architect, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons). The building has everything – gym, daycare, pool, supermarket, ample parking – and boasts a utopian philosophy that aims to erase all societal boundaries. However, very soon tensions begin to rise among the residents of the building and you begin to see a social divide start to form between the residents, which is ironic since the building was supposedly built to avoid exactly this. But once this begins to happen, all anarchy ensues that brings mayhem not only to the building but to the lives of everyone living within it.
Reminiscent greatly to Snowpiercer in its portrayal of exceedingly idiosyncratic social hierarchy, Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise is an incredible film that also happens to be really messy and disjointed. But believe me, being messy is just one of the reasons this films work so well. See, High-Rise is one of those films that asks you to just go along with just about everything that unfolds in the film. Some of it is surreal, some of it is hallucinatory, a lot of it defies logic. And personally I think for that to happen, the film itself needs to be really good and really gripping that you don’t care if everything makes sense. And High-Rise is that good.
I think one way to describe it would be, something between Terry Gilliam and Stanley Kubrick. The 70s portrayed with a dash of dystopia just kinda screamed Kubrick for me while the idiosyncrasy and surrealism is all very Gilliam-esque. Wheatley does a fantastic job behind the camera directing each scene with the utmost precision, his style is truly something to behold and the script from him and Amy Jump is a dense one that boasts a lot of satirical dark humor and one which doesn’t give exposition a lot of importance but rather, provokes thought. The film is also beautiful to look at and every frame is pretty much a feast for the eyes.
The performances are terrific across the board with Elisabeth Moss, Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons all doing solid work, but I think Tom Hiddleston and Luke Evans really manage to stand out, and Evans nearly steals the entire thing with his outstanding supporting performance as a volatile Welsh documentarian and anarchist.
High-Rise is a strange film but one that revels in its ambiguity and strangeness. It’s also blazingly idiosyncratic with some killer style and works as darkly humorous satire on society. It’s easily one of the most fucked up films I’ve seen in a long time which should be enough of a reason for you to check it out.