High Rise (2016)


Ben Wheatly directs Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons in this 1970s filtered vision of a sci-fi dystopia.

My great expectations for High Rise were both met and warped on viewing. Ben Wheatly is the most exciting director currently making movies and this lurch towards a higher profile cast, source material and budget had the feel of a nexus point for British cinema. The most exciting since Trainspotting potentially. Now what we actually get is not quite as accessible as Trainspotting. Not quite as accessible as a rave culture influenced look at working class Scottish heroin junkies ruining their lives. High Rise is a tough film that ignores its apocalyptic-thriller-in-an-enclosed-space trappings and instead focuses on the symptoms of the society in collapse rather than any causes or cures. If you have come looking for action or heroics then Wheatly pointedly disappoints. He is far more interested in showing the man freefalling from the 30th floor than any attempts to save him or even what happens to the body. What we are left with is a colourful, moving puzzle that stylishly throws up lurid flashes and mysterious blanks, knowing your mind will imagine far worse trying to recognise and fills in what you have and have not glimpsed. We essentially live too long with an ensemble violently falling apart, even Tom Hiddleston nominal hero succumbs to the addictive madness of the tower society. A cold fish role, he enters impeccably suited with his life compartmentalised in boxes marked Fiction and Non Fiction, boxes he never opens, a suit he is reluctant to take off even when all vestiges of community and respectability are lost. Surrounding him are great bits of hysterical acting from Luke Evans (going the full Oliver Reed as a macho working class libertine), Elisabeth Moss (the closest we got to a Madonna figure who still casts off her children and wedding ring for a good fuck), James Purefoy and Dan Renton Skinner (snobs turned into a leisurewear clad death squad) plus Jeremy Irons and Keeley Hawes (excellent as the penthouse flat couple with a love / hate relationship and a beautifully incongruous  white horse). Unsatisfying as the genre experience it has been sold as yet for a immaculately detailed and performed walk on the wild side this joins 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and A Clockwork Orange as a perfect cerebral, literary sci-fi adaptation for those of us who like getting lost in a world. And we are in no way the worst neighbours to share a level with.


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