High Rise Review

Director: Ben Wheatley

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans

The Overview

Dr Robert Laing (Hiddleston) moves into a new high rise development, a microcosmic society where the rich are in control and living the high life at the top, and the poorer families live at the bottom.

The Good

This is maybe one of the most difficult reviews I have had to write because after watching the film, I genuinely wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. I didn’t hate it, nor did I love it, but I wasn’t indifferent to it either. I liked it but I couldn’t think what it was I liked about it, and there’s definitely bits I didn’t like but I couldn’t put my finger on those either. It was an altogether interesting experience, and this might not be the most conclusive review you will read, but I’m going to give it a go anyway.

Visually there is a lot to like about this film. It’s a garish, nightmarish vision of what the world would look like if capitalism prevailed, and how the class system can lead to the complete destruction and downfall of society. It’s pretty weighty stuff, but balanced out with some jet black humour. This is however a very difficult film to get a grasp on. I expect many will walk away feeling like I did, as there really isn’t anything like this film out there. It’s set in the 1970s and whilst looking gloriously dated aesthetically, it is a vibrant, futuristic affair that is thematically very current.

There’s some beautiful shots, many of which occur in the private lift to the penthouse; the fun-house mirror effect creates a seemingly infinite stream of Tom Hiddleston’s and it is pretty striking. There’s also a very memorable scene with Hiddleston painting the walls of his flat and most of himself in bluey grey paint, and indeed the high rise building itself cuts an imposing and striking figure in the external shots; almost a character in its own right.

The first half of the film establishes the characters but aside from a few of the more central ones, we’re introduced to their classes rather than them as individuals. We know roughly who is who and where they live but that’s about it, and I’ll be honest this is enough. The second half can only be described as chaos, but it is well orchestrated chaos! At moments grubby and terrifying, and at others beautiful and comical. It’s an odd cocktail which is incredibly jarring and disorienting but I think that’s the point.

It’s flawed, and far from great or even good, but it isn’t a bad film, and it certainly left a lasting impression as it was all I could think about the day after seeing it.

The Bad

Those going into this film expecting a conventional thriller, drama, or black comedy, are going to either be pleasantly surprised or incredibly disappointed. It is unconventional in every sense of the word and I’m guessing the people who walked out of the screening I was in were either expecting something entirely different, or they just plain didn’t like it. I can fully understand this, and I’m still not sure it was my sort of film either.

The incoherence of the plot is incredibly disconcerting at times, and the lack of any real protagonists can make it difficult to stay in touch with what the film is trying to get across. It is a world so far removed from anything that is easily identifiable or relatable that it is a struggle to enjoy, particularly in the second half with the endless scenes of depravity and destruction. The carnage is relentless, and it’s pretty exhausting to watch, and not always enjoyable, as much as it tries to be.  

The Verdict

I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Despite the fact I enjoyed this movie for the most part, I cannot in good faith recommend it. There will be those who enjoy it, but it’s highly likely people won’t and I don’t want to be held responsible for people wasting their money! On the one hand it is a very cool, unique, striking film that will get under your skin whether you want it to or not. On the other hand, it’s incoherent, chaotic, disjointing and just plain bizarre. If you’re intrigued or want to prove me wrong in any way, then please do go and see this movie, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it either way. Fact is, just like Ballard’s novels, this film will be polarising, which certainly makes for great discussions, but not necessarily for an easy review or an easy watch.

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.


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