Screenplay by Amy Jump (from the novel by J.G. Ballard) Directed by Ben Wheatley If you like to see beautiful people doing wretched things, this is the movie for you. Suicide, murder, rape, dog-drowning (and worse), bad parenting, passive documentary-ing, snobbism, servant abuse, just about everything is stooped to by the end of the “experiment.” It turns out to be another of those examples of just how bad British boys (and girls) can be if left to their own devices, without the strict class stratification and rigid upbringing that the society prides itself on maintaining at all costs. This isn’t exactly what I remember the novel to be about, though I admit I read it some time ago. I think Ballard was talking about how modern society (and maybe Modernism itself, especially in the shapes of its forbidding architecture) tends to alienate us from each other and maybe also from ourselves. Things in the new high rise start going wrong because its residents actually have a self-sufficient world to inhabit, one so complete there’s no need to go outside for entertainment, for sustenance, or even for work. Something about the building foments an intense kind of agoraphobia, and we get a sort of Lord of the Flies on a very unexpected kind of desert island, where the social contract is rewritten for the microcosm. The film is much more concerned with sexual license and class struggle, expressed with a tone that misses the mark of either dread or satire. The lower levels are disdained, electricity and supplies are unreliable, and the upper levels engage in indulgences like roof gardens featuring horses and sheep, and orgiastic parties in period dress to make the Romans blush. Somewhere in between is where we find our hero Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a loner suffering from the recent loss of a beloved sister. He lives in 2505. One floor above (with a very convenient stepped balcony that allows quite the view) in 2605 we find Caroline (Sienna Miller) who seems to have an inside line on many of the stranger currents under way in the building, and a neglected son who figures into a plot that never materializes fully. She’s the only one with any clue because the preponderance of strange behaviors defies any sort of explanation. When Laing is called to see Royal, the Architect of the building, it’s much more Don Corleone than it is the Matrix Reloaded. Jeremy Irons hams up the dithering genius, clad only in white in a nearly literal ivory tower, to the extremes the script encourages, but any hint of a master plan his many models strain to give (something about five buildings that are like the fingers of a giant grasping hand, how comforting for the residents) is lost and muddled as we move on to the next display of rudeness. The design and the vistas, whether of seventies fashions or steely interiors, with grim Brutalist buildings surrounded by lots of colorful sports cars, are all there, but they never spring to life in a story so concerned with human failings. The rules of class that apply outside the building are upended inside, but not for any clear reason. Hiddleston often retreats to his room, except when he’s flirting with Luke Evans’ wife, and the Architect must venture out to rescue his own wife from the horrors of the grocery store at one point. Luke is more interested, tragically, in Caroline, who doesn’t take him seriously until after he’s gone round the bend completely. Laing’s obsession with gaining a single can of gray paint to adjust his habitat just that tiny amount becomes a pathetic quest, and the idea that any of them are still leaving for the office and willingly returning every night becomes increasingly impossible to believe. Ultimately, the film settles for being one of those British apocalypse tales about the inevitable demise of the Empire, down to a drowned world scene near the end of the film. As coastal flooding seems to be the one problem the building escapes, the indoor pool has to suffice, but it serves to contain the piles of bleeding bodies that pile up when a new force asserts dominance in the upper floors. Personally, for a lesson in the disparities of dysfunctional British society, I’d suggest any Pink Floyd album before seeing this film. High-Rise (2015)Shawn's Rating2.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.