‘Welcome to the high life’
High-Rise is a 2015 British science-fiction thriller film directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List; Sightseers; A Field in England; The ABCs of Death: ‘U is for Unearthed’) based on the 1975 novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard (Crash). It was produced by Jeremy Thomas (Naked Lunch).
London, 1975: Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a young doctor seduced by the lifestyle in a high-rise, an isolated community, cut off from the rest of society in their luxury tower block, and its creator, the architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons). Taking up residence on the twenty-fifth floor, Laing discovers a world of complex loyalties, and also strikes up a relationship with Royal’s devoted aide Charlotte (Sienna Miller).
After Laing befriends Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), a documentary filmmaker relegated to the second floor who is determined to provoke the class injustices inherent in the high-rise, a dangerous social situation develops and the high-rise eventually fragments into violent tribes…
” … a deliciously dark satire that feels fresh and original in spite of the fact that it’s based on a book that was published 40 years ago. Ben Wheatley’s most visually arresting film, it’s fuelled by a superb soundtrack and fine performances. But it’s also a film that feels like it doesn’t have an ending, the journey startling but leading to a destination that ultimately disappoints.” Chris Tilly, IGN
“What began as a self-contained allegory on open class warfare becomes a showcase for stylistic anarchy, wherein the ensuing orgy of sex and violence serves to justify a near-total breakdown of cinematic form. Those with an appetite for aberrant creative visions could make High-Rise a hot cult property…” Peter Debruge, Variety
“In some ways this is a creative adventure. It shows Wheatley for the first time stretching his talent to fit a film with stars and expectation. It’s not a disaster, but the faults stack up. It took nearly 40 years for High Rise to make it to big screen. After all that time, this is a bit of a dog’s dinner.” Henry Barnes, The Guardian
” …while it does visit some very dark places, it doesn’t have anything to say about inequality or social disorder or capitalism or anything at all. Instead, the tone is one of overegged farce, while the visuals fetishize the mounting rubbish, the marauding gangs, the explosions of violence, the dogs that are either drowned or barbecued…” Deborah Ross, The Spectator
” … darkly comic, High-Rise is almost flawless. The sets are stunning, the music is perfect and Wheatley has Ballard’s off-the-wall humour down to a T. But High-Rise is a film that asks a lot of its audience, glossing over some of the more crucial events (namely the breakdown itself) through montages and leaving the watcher to piece it together”, The Upcoming
“Ben Wheatley and his screenwriter wife Amy Jump have done a swell job translating Ballard’s cult novel to the big screen, but the film’s ultimate success rests on the evocative retro 1970s production design, the impressive ensemble cast, and the atmospheric electronic score.” Peter Fuller, Kultguy’s Keep
“Stylistically, this evocation of a world “prone to fits of mania, narcissism and power failure” is spot-on; you can smell the smoke and booze in which everyone is marinated, unhinged adults behaving like unruly children, a glimpse of an Action comic (“Kids rule OK!”) offering a sly nod towards Wheatley’s formative influences.” Mark Kermode, The Observer
“Once we are firmly established with the concrete erection and its dubious denizens, incident upon incident of unpleasantness pile up to become almost monotonous. And Wheatley and DP Laurie Rose conjure such restless, arresting images that even if your attention to the plot wanders, you will still want to watch.” Nev Pierce, Empire
” …the filmmakers really do manage to visualize a distinctly Ballardian nightmare-scape. This in itself makes High-Rise worth experiencing. The movie retains Ballard’s not-uncheerful mordancy, and brings home his conviction that what we convince ourselves to be the best of all doesn’t need much of a tilt to become the absolute worst.” Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com
“The movie becomes more fragmented as the film moves on, with the final act depicting the depravity that the men of the building have sunk to. Their disconnection from reality causes them to think of the High-Rise first and foremost, taking priority over almost everything else. There is no doubt that the final act is messy, disjointed, and more than a little jarring. But it is also one hell of a roller-coaster.” Jordan Dodd, Epileptic Moondancer