D: Ben Wheatley. DP: Laurie Rose. W: Amy Jump (adapted from J.G. Ballard’s novel). Starring: Tom Hiddleston/Jeremy Irons/Luke Evans/Sienna Miller/Elisabeth Moss/James Purefoy/Keeley Hawes/Dan Renton Skinner/Louis Suc.
High-Rise is true to its name as the film explores the life and destructive times of residents of a new residential complex in 1970s era London presumably. The film focuses on the newest resident, Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), whose boxes are left mostly unopened and whose past is never revealed. Laing soon meets fellow lower floor couple Richard and Helen Wilder (Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss) along with sociably sexy Charlotte (Sienna Miller). Soon invited up a mirrored elevator to meet the grand architect of the building, Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons), Laing finds himself in a microcosm of capital class-ism.
At the center of High-Rise is Hiddleston’s performance, one where his
eel-like charm and sinuous figure lend a statuesque quality to the anti-hero. His complex yet at times vacant take on Laing is a clean counter balance to the ruthless messy energy of Evans’ performance as Wilder. Sandwiched between them at times is Miller who continues to be a pretty face with little to do. She is dragged across the floor at some point in a menacingly real act of terror. Moss is better here as the heavily pregnant wife of Wilder who is trapped in a concrete created suburban nightmare. Louis Suc as Charlotte/Miller’s son Toby is charming and unaffected.
As a novel before the film devotee I am shamed I did not have the time to read this before seeing it. J.G. Ballard’s work is unfamiliar to me, however, that being said the film inspires me to still pick up the book. The imagery alone of the towers as analogous to an open hand makes me curious what part of the novel were deemed by some as un-filmable or impossible. As life in the high-rise breaks down and groups of floors depreciate into debauchery style becomes the focus.
Cinematographer Laurie Rose worked with Wheatley on his previous films and along with Mark Tildesley creates a world of angular walls and beige for Laing. Such that when he steps out onto the penthouse garden of the Royals you feel almost flushed. His obsession with a can of paint then seems a tad over the top amidst a grocery store looting. The editing is well balanced between stylized moments and narrative propulsion and the use of a cover of ABBA’s ‘S.O.S’ is quite startling. An adult Lord of the Flies trapped within concrete hell, High-Rise is worth a watch. It’s the sort of film I would imagine Patrick Bateman would be fascinated by.