Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), the newest resident of a luxurious apartment in a high-tech concrete skyscraper whose lofty location places him amongst the upper class. Laing quickly settles into high society life and meets the building's eccentric tenants: Charlotte (Sienna Miller), his upstairs neighbor and bohemian single mother; Wilder (Luke Evans), a charismatic documentarian who lives with his pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss); and Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons), the enigmatic architect who designed the building. Life seems like paradise to the solitude-seeking Laing. But as power outages become more frequent and building flaws emerge, particularly on the lower floors, the regimented social strata begins to crumble and the building becomes a battlefield in a literal class war.
Review by Louise Keller:
Based on J.G. Ballard's novel, the central high-rise skyscraper is an allegory for capitalism in this wildly muddled adaptation, which is effectively an essay on the ugliness of human behaviour. The film offers some interesting ideas about society, sex and paranoia, but is style-heavy. There is nothing subtle about the way filmmaker Ben Wheatley approaches the subject matter but it should be said there are some visually stimulating sequences and the mood is well portrayed.
Tom Hiddleston plays the everyman protagonist Dr Robert Laing, who is new to the building and who quickly learns that the residents living on the lower floors are beholden to those above. He maintains a detachment throughout. The use of music is stylised as the lifestyle of the high-rise dwellers is observed at close quarters. We meet the residents one by one. Charlotte (Sienna Miller as a brunette, in hypnotic form) who spies Robert from the apartment above, is a key player. She tells him he looks better with his clothes off. We know where that is going... Her young son has a spooky tendency to spy on everyone through his kaleidoscope. This works especially well towards the end of the film when the debauchery is viewed through the viewfinder. Luke Evans plays Richard Wilder, a disturbed documentarian married to the very pregnant Helen (Elisabeth Moss); he spends most of the film with blood smeared on his face.
There are never-ending parties in which debauchery rule. Drunken orgies and out of control excess are par for the course. ABBA's song SOS never felt so apt. It's an interesting version, too. Holding it all together is Jeremy Irons, perfectly cast as the architect king-pin, Mr Royal, who oversees the unfolding debaucheries from his penthouse.
Secrets are revealed, inhibitions discarded and the value of life diminished. Whether or not you feel the film succeeds in making its point is up to you but one thing is for sure: the world of high-rise is an ugly and muddled one.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The metaphor of a high rise apartment block for capitalism seems workable, and even perhaps an interesting one to explore ... in an intellectual game sort of way. I haven't read the book, but if the film is anything to go by, it is rather pretentious and unengaging. The film has the sheen of a surreal work of art with many moving parts, few of them of any interest. The characters are too sharp, too shallow and too distant for our involvement. Still, there are moments to savour, such as the wonderfully deliberate, intense arrangement of the ABBA song, SOS.
Tom Hiddleston is appealing as the central character through whose eyes we view the inhabitants, and Jeremy Irons brings authority to his role as Mr Royal, the architect and top dog, living in the penthouse ... until he's brought low.
Luke Evans is also noteworthy as the blood soaked and aptly named Wilder, a doco maker whose edginess suggest some kind of psychosis ... and he's not alone in that regard.
The production design is a work of genius and the setting dramatic, especially the long shots of the high rise, with its top section bent outward like a hand flexing. Director Ben Wheatley fuses inappropriate music to many scenes, perhaps hoping to layer the effect of the film for his audience with contradictory emotional stings. In the end, though, these seem rather derivative, referencing other films that use this device more organically and originally - Clockwork Orange (1972) and Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) come to mind.
The most unhappy thing about the film for me is that its hectic efforts to be stridently bizarre turn out to play as rather boring.
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CAST: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter Ferdinando
PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas
DIRECTOR: Ben Wheatley
SCRIPT: Amy Jump (novel by J. G. Ballard)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Laurie Rose
EDITOR: Amy Juimp, Ben Whatley
MUSIC: Clint Mansell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Tildesley
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 18, 2016