High Rise - This Movie Does Not Rock The Heights It Aspires To
Dir: Ben Wheatley
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy irons, Siennas Miller & Guillory, Luke Evans, Elizabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes
Producer Jeremy Thomas has been trying t bring J G Ballard’s satirical novel High Rise to the screen for thirty years or more. He finally achieved it with Ben Wheatley (and his creative partner Amy Jump) and a rather impressive cast. And, after all that time, it’s a shame it’s not all a bit more coherent.
Tom Hiddleston is the new doctor in residence, having just moved into the exclusive high rise building of the title, a world that is deliberately self-contained and stratified to the point where the floor you inhabit dictates/reflects your social standing in this microsomic experiment, designed by the Architect (a penthouse bound Jeremy Irons.)
Sticking close to the source material, Wheatley bases this visually firmly in the 1970s (as Ballard did at the time) which is a conceit that ultimately works against the film and comes across more of a design conceit than anything else. It’s almost impossible to accept the story’s predictive nature when everything is so deliberately retro. But if that was the film’s only problem – we’d still be OK. Whatley uses it as a jumping off point for what rapidly becomes a hedonistic mishmash, stuffed full of extreme caricatures and “types” rather than people. Admittedly, that’s part of the point as the people here conform to their status, but it’s all woefully self-indulgent. And that’s not just the characters – it’s the filmmaking.
There are some decent performances here – Hiddleston, Irons and Sienna Miller in particular (and James Purefoy is suitably slimy once he gets the chance) but Wheatley is away to the races here, lost in his own pretensions. And he fails to take anyone with him.
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