High Rise -2016 (review): The beautiful breakdown of capitalist society



Directed by: Ben Wheatley Written by: J.G. Ballard (novel), Amy Jump Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller

Synopsis: Adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel in which life for the residents of an experimental tower block begins to run out of control.

High Rise could be seen as a film made up of Ben Wheatley’s greatest hits. Blending together the dark black humour of Sightseers, the social commentary of Down Terrace, the pitch black thrills of Kill List  and the all-out psychedelia of A Field in England. Yes, it’s funny and dark.  He has managed to blend his very distinctive voice with those of an incredible team, to produce something which feels like a future cult classic.

Amy Jump’s script is a sometimes-on-the-nose critique of capitalism, bringing Ballard’s themes bang up to date. Indeed it felt particularly timely given the current infighting in the British Conservative government, as if we were firmly in the middle of the chaos we see on screen. Also interesting to note she helped edit the film.

The design is beautiful, with a retro-futurism that makes the time frame of the piece difficult to pin down, marrying 60’s, 70’s and 80’s aesthetics with an almost Blade Runner-esque futurism. This timelessness is very firmly marked out early on, with Dr Laing (Hiddleston) opining they were “living in a future that had already taken place”.

Hiddleston is becoming the master of social chameleon roles, with his take on Dr Laing not being a million miles away from his character in the brilliant BBC drama The Night Manager. He is at once seductive, charming and remote, seemingly withholding a secret, sadness or brutality that is hard to read. His character sits firmly on the fence, blending with both those on the lower and upper floors of the High Rise. He finds himself being described as “the best amenity in the building” by some of it’s female denizens, echoing the sentiment that Laing and the building are inseparable.

Like Kubrick’s The Shining, the titular High Rise is one of the most prominent characters on screen, evolving with the characters inside it, from shiny new utopia, to burned out husk.

Clint Mansell’s soundtrack is superb, perfectly mirroring the chaos and mania that ensue, and ensuring that the audience feel as out of kilter as the characters.

While High Rise won’t be bringing Ben Wheatley to the mass market, it is likely to become a future cult classic in the vein of Brazil or even The Wicker Man.


9 out of 10



One thought on “High Rise -2016 (review): The beautiful breakdown of capitalist society

  1. I primarily checked out this movie because I am a fan of Tom Hiddleston’s and have enjoyed his previous films and the varied choices he makes with his roles. When i heard people were walking out on it during some of the film festivals it premiered, while others were raving about it, I got excited Films that draw such strong reactions are so rare these days. Most films play it safe, try to cater to everyone, make decisions by committee and end up being BLEAH. This film is not for everyone and I’ve only recommended it to a few people that I felt would enjoy it’s chaos, can handle the violence and enjoy the British humor(and there IS humor in this film) . I think it also helped that I read the book that it was based on, which helped me follow the film I think. And for the record, the book doesn’t really explain why people won’t leave the building except that they’ve all committed to their cult like tribe enjoying their cliff dive into primitive savagery that our “civilized” society no longer allows. It would have been interesting to see what happened further down the line since at the end of book and the movie , the women with children seemed to be creating their own supportive society that was going to outlast the chest beating one created by the men. A comment on gender roles in our civilization perhaps? It generates alot of questions which is good and Tom Hiddleston was fantastic in this movie. I hope he keeps challenging himself and the audience in the future.

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