Dir: Ben Wheatley (2015)
J.G Ballard‘s “unfilmable” futuristic societal rap on the knuckles finally gets its comeuppance in Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump‘s brilliantly designed High-Rise. Wheatley’s 70s influenced pathos in film making really comes into its own here; We are shown right from the get go that things aren’t going to end well for one Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleson) as he sits down in unimaginable squalor to feast on a barbecued dog’s leg. The once spectacular (and spectacularly stark) High-Rise in question was once a towering jump-start for all of the classes, living together in peaceful harmony. It’s the demise that Jump and Wheatley want to show us and they make no bones about it.
Production Designer Mark Tildesley makes High-Rise a visual feast of white walls, shag-pile carpets and fake wood paneling while we are introduced to a few of the High-Rise’s many inhabitants. Laing’s smouldering upstairs neighbour (Sienna Miller), an animatistic and nihilistic film maker (Luke Evans) who attempts to show what’s happening from the inside and the building’s creator; He’s played with a lazy ease by Jeremy Irons who spends most of his time in the rooftop oasis, complete with white stallions. Yes, High-Rise dares to be as bat-shit crazy as Ballard’s text but in all the fizzling anger which bubbles up slowly and the stunning sets there feels as if something is lacking in Wheatley’s mental vision.
For all the fun and games and flesh and blood and splattered paint there are missed opportunities, lost and under-developed characters and a little much style over substance at times. That’s not always a bad thing (or an unimaginable one) with a film as full of characters and as eye-popping as High-Rise is but in the huge and very real themes inherent it often seems to shock or sparkle for the hell of it. That said, when the collapse begins, Hiddleson is pitch perfect as Laing showing a man, both sympathetic and somehow untrustworthy, in flux; It’s a tightrope walk he pulls off without breaking a sweat. A wild ride which is tightly steered but ironically this ultra violent, smash-the-system movie is missing the brash kinetic anarchy of the directors more psychopathic efforts such as Kill List and A Field In England.