High-Rise is an adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel by the same. It was directed by Ben Wheatley and written by Amy Jump.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch High-Rise. I had seen Wheatley and Jump’s Kill List, and while, in the end, I ended up really enjoying the movie, it took me awhile to warm up to it. The same applied to Crash, another work of Ballard’s that was adapted by David Cronenberg. And while these types of movies (the supposed decay of a supposedly civilized society) are interesting to me, they tend to follow a familiar course. They kind of write themselves, and in lesser hands, write themselves in a way that, while intriguing, end up being forgetful.
Fortunately, High-Rise, while following many familiar beats, does enough differently to differentiate itself from its depraved brethren.
So what exactly is this movie about? Well, it’s about Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston), who has recently moved into a London skyscraper that, in a way, is a world all its own. What follows is an observation of his experiences inside the skyscraper as the lower levels and upper levels begin to clash with one another over limited resources and perceived differences between both groups. Simple enough.
So what exactly separates this movie from others of its ilk? A lot of things! The End!
Just kidding. The acting is this movie, while, at times, over-the-top, is well done. Beside Tom Hiddleston, it also stars Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, and Elizabeth Moss. Each actor and actress do a great job in bringing their characters to life. You may not and probably won’t like them, but they do leave an impression.
The movie is also impeccably directed. The framing of scenes and overall atmosphere creates a constant pace that ensures the story, slow as it can be at times, is never boring. Set and costume design are stylish and seem to do a good job recreating the look of the 1970s. The music, as well, was very well chosen and compliments the film and the horrors on screen nicely. It’s a combination of classical music, popular songs for the time, as well as modern pieces.
But a movie can great feature great acting, music, and direction and still fail if the core of it is not solid. It’s hard to say that High-Rise is an enjoyable movie to watch, because it often isn’t. It’s a movie about class warfare, featuring a relatively unlikeable group of already most likely deranged individuals. What saves it, however, is some of the sheer absurdity of the events that unfold and the barely-veiled, biting satire that permeates every scene. While it’s pretty obvious how the movie will unfold, it’s these moments of madness that make the journey worth it (assuming you have the stomach for it). Also, the movie features a great sense of very dark humor that helps introduce some balance to what could have been an overly serious film.
If you’re looking for a film of this nature that justifies its characters’ descent into lunacy, this is not a film for you. The descent is gradual, but it is a montage that acts as a transition into the disgusting lives these people slip into. Why it happens really isn’t all that important. We already know it is going to happen. And, really, how many ways are there for it to happen? The cause isn’t that interesting. It’s the scenario. It’s the what happens next, when people give into their impulses, when people have made this building their whole existence and have come to terms with their squalid, filthy, and repulsive lifestyles. They could leave at any time. There is a city on the outskirts of the High-Rise. But they don’t, because this isn’t that kind of movie. They don’t want to escape, anyways. There’s no hint that they’re not actually unhappy with what’s happened. They just want what they think they are entitled to have.
High-Rise isn’t a movie for everyone. Opinions appear split on it. It’s a disturbing movie, and to some, a pointless movie. It’s not a feel good movie. And it’s not one you can connect with on a character level. It’s a movie you appreciate for the visuals, the talent, the black humor, and themes. It’s an awesome movie, but only if you let it does its thing and are happy with the fact you may be unhappy at its end.
(Also, some have said the movie is incomprehensible. That the story is almost impossible to follow. The story is very basic. The events, to the sane mind, are incomprehensible. Some do not seem able to differentiate between the two.)
Recommended: Yes, but watch the trailer and read some reviews first.