A bit uneven but always entertaining, Ben Wheatley channels his inner Nicholas Winding Refn and creates a bizarre, stylish, and sexy world that no one should ever want to live in.
There are very few films that have the ability to leave me speechless. Good or bad, there’s always something I can find to say about a movie. One movie that comes to mind right away is The Counselor, although with The Counselor it’s safe to say that it just wasn’t a very good movie. In this case, High-Rise is…something else entirely. Ben Wheatley creates a world that’s visually beautiful while relying on the style of 1970’s England. But there’s something that lacks in the storytelling department, and at a certain point it really feels like High-Rise just goes off the rails.
Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into the 25th floor of a high-rise luxurious apartment complex, where the tenants have everything they’ll ever need. There’s a school system, a supermarket, a gymnasium, a pool, some floors have recreational activities as well such as a squash court. Anything that a person could ever need and they don’t even have to leave their building. The only reason anyone ever really has to leave the high-rise is to head out to work. But the high-rise isn’t perfect, as there’s a clear social class system in place, with the upper class living on the higher floors and the poorer lower class living on the lowest floors. As for the working professionals, they can be found in the middling floors.
While sun-bathing, Laing makes company with Charlotte (Sienna Miller), who lives one floor directly above him. After a night of partying at her place, Laing is sent a direct invitation to the penthouse of Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), the architect and mastermind of the high-rise. The two appears to get on quite well, with Royal inviting Laing to a party being thrown by his wife. But things in the high-rise don’t appear to be as nice as they seem, as power fluctuations are a common thing and garbage chutes getting clogged up all too easily. For the people living down in the lower class, they’re unable to attain basic living conditions while the people on the higher floors use up all the power for themselves.
While it never stops being enjoyable to a degree, the downfall of High-Rise is the struggle of maintaining a coherent story from the 2nd to 3rd act. The battle of classes is evident and things really go to shit on both sides, but it all feels rushed as if it’s just thrown in your face. And then we’re given a whole lot of time for it to sink in since the movie drags towards the end. What keeps High-Rise going from beginning to end is the terrific cast put together. Hiddleston, as always, is perfect. His charm is at an all time high, even while seeing the screws loosening. The real standout here is Luke Evans, who personifies the lower class struggle in the film. Anytime he’s on screen there’s tension in the air, never knowing when he’ll finally crack.
High-Rise is a bit bloody, violent, stylish, and at times very beautiful to look at. But for all of the world building that it attempts to create in such little time, it feels hollow. Throughout the film, it really doesn’t feel like Wheatley has a grasp on the type of movie he wants to create and High-Rise suffers because of it. A similar film to High-Rise, Snowpiercer, was released a few years ago that better illustrates the class struggle while showing us a completely different world. Wheatley would’ve been better off taking pointers from the Bong Joon-ho film, which is one of the best of 2013. Instead we’ll have to make due with Hiddleston’s descent into madness, and to a degree, that’s okay too.
High-Rise is directed by Ben Wheatley, based on the novel of the same name written by J.G. Ballard, written by Amy Jump, and stars Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, and Keeley Hawes. High-Rise will be in theaters April 28, 2016.