This review is spoiler free.
Once deemed “unfilmable,” screenwriter Amy Jump (A Field in England, Kill List) and husband, director Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, A Field in England, Doctor Who) have managed to adapt and bring J.G. Ballard’s novel ‘High-Rise’ to the big screen in a really remarkable way. The story revolves around Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) and the residents of a new high-rise apartment complex built by architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons). The high-rise provides everything the residents need; a home, a swimming pool, a supermarket and even a school. With this, they proceed to isolate themselves from the outside world - the only reason they need to leave is to go to work.
High-Rise is a tale about class warfare - the wealthy, high class tenants living at the top of the building, the middle class in the middle, and the lower class (or “real families”) at the bottom. As the building “teethes,” lights go out and lifts break down, the residents begin to spiral out of control and this once gleaming building soon turns into a dystopian environment.
“It’s my paint!”
One of the main highlights of the film is the tremendous camera work which starts off with smooth and refined Kubrick style tracking shots and angles which represents the calm state of the building, but as the film progresses it slowly becomes more and more shaky and almost as violent and manic as the film itself. Combined with stunning cinematography by Director of Photography Laurie Rose and lavish production values, what we have here is a beautiful looking film that really must be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated.
One of the most breathtaking sequences in High-Rise shown through the view of a kaleidoscope and has been reflected in the films promotional material.
Wheatley’s direction throughout is very solid, and both this and the script help keep the film going at a perfect pace. He knows exactly when to keep things moving along trippingly but is not afraid to slow the film down in parts, either literally with some great use of slow motion or to focus more on character development and include some very interesting scenes. These might seem out of place and appear to have nothing to do with the plot at first, but they fit perfectly within this world which each audience member can interpret in different ways.
Jump’s script really is perfect. The dialogue is great, everything flows really well and, although I have yet to read the source material, I have heard it is the perfect adaptation of Ballard’s novel (although some might disagree, but isn't that always the way?). Not to mention, the film is really funny! The joke’s hit and the laughs come, and let’s be honest here, it was funnier than Deadpool! You really can’t beat a bit of dark humour and this is it at it’s finest.
An excellent dream sequence within the film which portrays the almost Utopia-like High-Rise at the start. THIS is how you do relevant dream sequences… take note Snyder!
This wonderful script is complemented by some equally brilliant performances from the main cast. Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans, Keeley Hawes and Elisabeth Moss were the main standouts for me but the entire cast added a great depth to the film. I don't think you’re really supposed to like the characters, but they are all written and portrayed so brilliantly, it’s hard not to. A special mention has to go to Louis Suc who was really great as the small boy, Toby.
I do have some reservations about the film. One of these is that I think the break down of the residents comes about a bit too quickly as I’d have liked to have seen more of the build up before chaos comes spiralling down, and I think that whilst there are some nice slow motion shots, there are lots of lingering shots which could have either been cut to shorten the film’s run time or to allow for more of the build up to have been seen. However, these are only minor criticisms and pale in comparison to all the positives.
The beautiful imagery and acting is complemented by a fantastic score by Clint Mansell as well as a haunting cover of Abba’s ’S.O.S.’ by Portishead which was amazing and worked perfectly within the context of the film. So well in fact, I was singing it in the shower the next morning!
“For all its inconveniences, Laing was satisfied with life in the high-rise…”
High-Rise really is a stunning film that has and will no doubt continue to divide audiences. Some will love it and others will hate it for the reasons that people love it. With something as arty as this, you really can’t rely on what other’s say, you just have to see it for yourself. It’s wonderfully gruesome and sexy but certainly not in a gratuitous fashion as it goes hand in hand with the themes of the film. It’s full of superb acting and solid direction, its cinematography and camera work is artistic, inspired and has an almost dream like quality to it, and as the film progresses, more nightmarish, but in a really good way! Jump’s script is the backbone of it all and really holds the whole thing together. I don't think you could have something this visually stunning and well acted without a script as good as this.
It truly is a work of art and has to be seen to be believed.
I give High-Rise 4.5 stars out of 5
Nick is a 2000 year old alien who travels through time and space, saving the good and conquering the evil... or so he likes to think.