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Categories: Movie Reviews

Ben Wheatley’s latest film is a sensory overload, with a stellar cast including Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons stealing the show. 

high_rise

High-Rise is the cinematic reimagining of JG Ballard’s cult 1975 novel, adapted to the screen by Amy Jump and directed by British director Ben Wheatley, whose previous offerings include the well-received, dark and disturbing horror Kill List.

High-Rise is a glimpse of the 70s future perspective, depicting utilitarian Kubrick architecture with large-digit computer screens, oranges and browns, coupled with fashions of three piece suits, wide collars and bell bottoms. It’s heavy on the martini-drinking, and the memo on the hazards of cigarette smoking obviously had not sunken into public consciousness, with every character, including a heavily-pregnant Elizabeth Moss, having a cigarette at hand at all times.

The ‘High Rise’ itself, with its cement walls, is the lead actor: it is a thing of true, ugly beauty, standing tall at the outskirts of a London-esque city where the rich residents inhabit the top floors and the lower class, the middle class in this instance, inhabit the lower floors. Tom Hiddleston’s character, the likable Laing, is our guide in this dystopian madness, partaking in both the debauched parties of the upper floors as well as the tame kids’ birthday parties of the lower floors.

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Hiddleston is a convincing Laing, a suave, British doctor, described by Sienna Miller’s Charlotte Melville as ‘a fine specimen’; however, as the film continues, his descent into madness becomes unsympathetic – he is an uncomfortable deer caught in Wheatley’s headlights.

High-Rise’s strength is its extraordinarily talented supporting cast: the provocative and brash Charlotte Melville, subtly performed by Sienna Miller, the reclusive Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), architect and dark mastermind of the complex who lives in his bizarre Wonderland-style penthouse complete with sheep and horses, and the decadently bored and loveless couple Richard and Helen Wilder, lavishly and bravely performed by Luke Evans and Elizabeth Moss. Evans’ Richard Wilder is utterly impressive: aggressive and vicious but still bearing the trademarks of a complete loser, Evans isn’t afraid to go to dark places, unlike the lukewarm Hiddleston.

But even High-Rise’s stellar cast can’t distract from Jump’s slightly incomprehensible adaptation, where the divide between rich and poor is unclear, as no one seems remotely deprived or impoverished; Ballard’s dystopian politics are abandoned in favor of style and superficiality, yet somehow Wheatley does manage to win the audience over as the inevitable lapse into chaos and madness is met with abundance, richness, character, colour, sex, booze, and cigarettes. It is completely engulfing, a sensory overload.

High-Rise is out now in UK cinemas.

Daniel Theophanous

Daniel Theophanous is based in Hackney, London. He studied at Goldsmith College, he is a PR Director at Theo PR and as well an avid Film & TV lover. He organizes the London Fields Free Film Festival.

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Posted on Mar 24, 2016

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