Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss
Run Time: 119 mins
‘High-Rise’ is an adaptation of the same novel by J.G Ballard that has been deemed “unfilmbable”. It’s faced a long history of being brought to the screen since the 1970’s when producer Jeremy Thomas tried to get the film made with Nicolas Roeg directing but it could never lift off the ground. Finally in 2013 after a few more efforts, Ben Wheatley, most famous for ‘Kill List’ and ‘Sightseers’, stepped into the director’s chair with his wife, Amy Jump, adapting the book into a script. This is Wheatley’s largest budget film to date and his direction doesn’t always appeal to mass audiences. The film has received rather polarising reviews with some labelling it as a masterpiece to some downright hating it.
‘High-Rise’ starts off well enough and has an intriguing premise but the film descends into an indecipherable mess that is poorly handled by Wheatley who doesn’t seem to have a firm-enough grasp on the material. There are also some excellent performances here from Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Moss but it’s not enough to save this hodgepodge of a film. Any tension built up towards the film’s climactic third act is lost and the film becomes very dull. Hats off to Wheatley for giving this a go but this ‘Lord of the Flies’ meets ‘Ex_Machina’ mash-up unfortunately doesn’t meet the bill.
The cast is a mixed bag – Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Moss are the standouts here, particularly Hiddleston who owns the role as the lead character, Laing. He is really turning into one of Great Britain’s national treasures when it comes to acting. Laing is constantly kept in the dark as to what the true intentions of his fellow neighbours in the high-rise are up to and as an audience, it is interesting to see his character develop and ultimately morph into a figure who suits this high-rise life. Elisabeth Moss is also very good here in a supporting role as a pregnant neighbour who is quite vulnerable and doesn’t quite know how to tread around her husband. Luke Evans who plays him is downright awful here and his character seems wildly out of place here and is annoying and animalistic. Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller round off the main cast and both are sound.
The story details an almost Marxist, volatile environment that crumbles during the course of the film. It does have the potential to be a really interesting film but Wheatley cannot deliver on the tension-building first act and the film turns into an indecipherable mess as it comes to its final act. It drags on and on (the film is only 119 minutes though) and this lack of tension results in some dull stretches. Even the Clint Mansell score, which is one of the highlights of the film, cannot save it nor can the stellar cinematography by Laurie Rose.
It’s a real shame that ‘High-Rise’ isn’t as good as it should be as the material has the potential to make an interesting, moral-questioning watch but Wheatley just doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the material. The film is ultimately extremely dull in parts, especially in its overlong final act. However, ‘High-Rise’ is not a totally wasted experience as the performances by Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Moss are excellent here as is the cinematography and score and the film’s promising first act.