Synopsis: Life for the residents of a tower block begins to run out of control.
Release Date: May 13, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
For years, there have been rumors and speculation flying around about a movie adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 dystopian sci-fi novel High-Rise, with big names like Nicolas Roeg and Vincenzo Natali reportedly attached to direct. Well, British filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England) has finally brought High-Rise to the big screen.
High-Rise is about a young doctor named Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston from Thor and I Saw the Light) who moves into a luxury apartment in a skyscraper that was built by an eccentric architect named Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons from The Man in the Iron Mask). Directly above Laing lives a hot single mother named Charlotte Melville (Foxcatcher‘s Sienna Miller) who is instantly attracted to Laing and decides to seduce him. Laing’s other neighbors include a documentary filmmaker named (Dracula Untold‘s Luke Evans), his pregnant wife (Elisabeth Moss from “Mad Men”), a television newsman (Peter Ferdinando from Hyena), a beautiful actress (Sienna Guillory from the Resident Evil movies), a shady gynecologist (John Carter‘s James Purefoy), a gay psychiatrist (Enzo Cilenti from The Rum Diary), a medical student (Augustus Prew from Kick-Ass 2), and a seemingly endless host of other colorful characters. At first, Laing enjoys his new life full of all the modern conveniences of the building, but soon, a weird vibe settles over the residents. Laing starts to notice a class system to the building, with the poorer denizens confined to the lower floors while the richer residents occupy the higher ones. Of course, a microcosm like that can’t exist forever, and before too long, the building erupts into a flurry of violent tribal warfare.
To say that High-Rise is a metaphor for society is an understatement. Screenwriter Amy Jump (who has contributed to the scripts for all of Ben Wheatley’s films in some capacity or another) keeps the allegory in Ballard’s novel intact, so the movie comes off as a very thinly veiled commentary on the division of wealth and class in the world. By the end, life in the high-rise is like a cross between Caligula and Lord of the Flies, with the residents basically imitating the events of a children’s birthday party that has gotten well out of hand.
Like many of Wheatley’s films, High-Rise is long winded, but there is a point to it. It just requires patience to get there. A lot of patience. The movie is very stylish and aesthetically pleasing, yet the story is so bloated that the whole concept just wears thin after a while. It’s a beautifully shot and wonderfully directed movie, and each and every actor in the substantial ensemble brings their A-game to the production, but at the end of the day, there’s just not enough of a payoff to justify any investment that the audience has put into the movie.
Those familiar with the work of Ben Wheatley will know what to expect from High-Rise. It’s very reminiscent of A Field in England, which was another masterclass study of style over substance. It’s actually a very fitting observation that the titular High-Rise itself is a like another character in the film; by the end, the cold concrete structure is the most human thing that’s left onscreen.
There’s some great music in High-Rise. The cinematic score, written by ex-Pop Will Eat Itself singer/current Darren Aronofsky go-to film composer Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream), is full of ethereal music that jumps back and forth from classic to modern, weaving elements of electronic and orchestral music into a soundscape that perfectly sets the mood for both the high class parties and the low class looting in the film. But the marvelously versatile incidental score is not even the best part of the film’s soundtrack. High-Rise also includes music from hipster avant-garde artists like CAN, Amon Duul, and The Fall as well. On top of that, there are a couple of really cool versions of the Swedish supergroup ABBA’s “SOS” in the film: a hauntingly spooky interpretation by British trip-hop band Portishead and a surprisingly charming string quartet arrangement by Mansell himself. Between the eerily symphonic score and the tasteful selection of songs, the music in High-Rise is collectively the strongest aspect of the film.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Ben Wheatley
- Producer(s): Jeremy Thomas
- Screenwriter(s): Amy Jump
- Story: J.G. Ballard
- Cast: Tom Hiddleston (Laing)Jeremy Irons (Royal)Sienna Miller (Charlotte) Luke Evans (Wilder)Elisabeth Moss (Helen)James Purefoy (Pangbourne)Keeley Hawes (Ann)Peter Ferdinando (Cosgrove)Sienna Guillory (Jane)Reece Shearsmith (Steele)Enzo Cilenti (Talbot)Augustus Prew (Munrow)
- Editor(s): Amy Jump
- Cinematographer: Laurie Rose
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Odile Dicks-Mireaux
- Casting Director(s): Nina GoldTheo Park
- Music Score: Clint Mansell
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: UKIreland