IR Film Review: Supernerd Inspects ‘High-Rise’


by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer

The battle between the Haves and the Have-Nots has been raging since the time when one person realized that someone else had more than them – whether it was food, weapons or something else that sparked their fancy. In recent years it’s come to the forefront again with the 1% and the downtrodden masses that fee like those “fat cats” are holding them down. While High-Rise (based on a novel from the 70s that seemed like a premonition well before it’s time) tries to spark the revolution once again it really just falls flat and heavy like an out of control elevator.

Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into a posh new apartment high-rise that has it all – literally. With amenities that include a gym, spa, supermarket and primary school, residents find very little reason to leave the structure except to go to work as they have almost everything they could want at their disposal.

The building is set up in a sort of caste system with the more affluent and well-off tenants living on the higher floors and the working-class residents living closer to the bottom and lower floors. Laing soon strikes up a relationship with the woman in the apartment above him, Charlotte (Sienna Miller) and a friendship with lower level residents Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) and his wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss).

Laing begins to notice oddities like frequent power outages, water shortages and backed-up waste disposal (which tend to affect the lower tiered residents more often than their richer counterparts) but is assured by the architect Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons) that it’s just the way a new building settles and finds its way.

These growing pains soon lead to a type of class warfare as the power goes out for good, water no longer flows and food becomes scarce. With the police no longer bothering with the high-rise, the residents (led by Wilder) soon turn to anarchy and rioting, looking to elicit some kind of change.

Director Ben Wheatley has been heralded as some kind of wunderkind of British crime drama. After watching this I have to say I’m not seeing it. It may be partly due to screenwriter Amy Jump’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel but High-Rise is a sloppy affair with very little in the way of a coherent storyline.

The main narrative is supposed to be the “class war” between the upper and lower floors. The only problem is that all of the complaints lodged (such as longer losses of power and having children banned from the pool) are actually addressed and answered in a feasible manner. And when they were actually standing side-by-side I could barely tell the difference between the white and blue collar residents.

High-Rise seemingly just wanted to get to the wanton violence and descent into anarchy as soon as it could, story be damned! But once we get to the mob mentality the film seemed to drag on for an excruciatingly long stretch of time.

One of the few shining bits (outside of Hiddleston’s slow downward spiral into madness) was the cinematography. The outside shots of the high-rise and it’s subsequent brother buildings being erected brought to mind the landscape of Mega-City One in Dredd (and maybe that’s where the filmmaker meant to say we as a society we’re going to eventually end up). But even that couldn’t save this film from itself.

I couldn’t recommend moving into High-Rise. Even the two-hour stay that I had was too long.