When the first building in a state of the art high-rise project is opened, Dr Laing (Tom Hiddleston) becomes one of the first occupants. This tower is designed as a habitat for its boarders, so that apart from work, they never have to leave. When the power goes out, their concrete world descends into chaos.
Ben Wheatley is a filmmaker that rails against a passive viewing experience; forcing the audience to unpack and study every frame of the his constantly intriguing enigma. From the opening of the film you’ll find yourself wrestling with temporality and the tower’s location relative to that of the surrounding world. While the fashion and clothing says 1960’s/70’s there are clues that lead you to believe that this situation is unfolding in a very specific time period. High-Rise‘s production is beautiful and meticulously crafted. Wheatley relishes in the ‘sameness’ of the location as it reinforces the kaleidoscopic way he orchestrates the events of High-Rise. The characters’ connection to one another is difficult to fully understand, especially as the floor hierarchy implicitly stands in for class status (reinforced throughout as numbers and labels are framed to catch your eye). Wheatley and his actors craft performances with precision and intent while being able to tap into animalistic desires.
Hiddleston’s Laing is the perfect High-Rise citizen. He’s a loner, refusing to unleash the totems of his former life out of the boxes littering his apartment (constructed in their own towers), wanting to make the most of the facilities and the individual lifestyle that the building encourages. Sienna Miller’s Charlotte wields a sexual power that makes her the conduit between the lower and higher levels of the structure. Jeremy Irons architect Royal is intentionally blind to the effects that his building has on those living in it. It’s a space both in and out of time and existing in a state of lawlessness. It’s a literal social experiment where the metaphoric meaning blurs with the literal. The power struggles between the classes become exemplified by the electric power of the building being lost. Those on the lower floors, categorically, rail against those who still prescribe to it.
Hiddleston’s Laing is a mechanic of the brain. Laing is introduced peeling away the facial mask from a severed human head. He’ll be the instrument to see the facade peeled from the High-Rise. Hiddleston himself is a facade. There doesn’t appear to be a character beneath the affectations. He’s a beautiful specimen whose dreams are as base as being entertained by a bevy of air hostesses. It’s an intentionally blank and charmless performance. Luke Evans is the best that I’ve ever seen him. A bludgeoning force in the building, snorting and fucking through conquests.
High-Rise is almost impenetrable until the final gasps of the film; and out of that pandemonium you feel the lure back to scenes, sequences and exchanges in the film – to have another pass at breaking them down.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Ben Wheatley
Written by: Amy Jump based on the novel by J.G. Ballard
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter Ferdinando, Sienna Guillory, Reece Shearsmith, Enzo Cilenti, Augustus Prew, Dan Renton Skinner
Tom Hiddleston … Laing
Jeremy Irons … Royal
Sienna Miller … Charlotte
Luke Evans … Wilder
Elisabeth Moss … Helen
James Purefoy … Pangbourne
Keeley Hawes … Ann
Peter Ferdinando … Cosgrove
Sienna Guillory … Jane
Reece Shearsmith … Steele
Enzo Cilenti … Talbot
Augustus Prew … Munrow
Dan Renton Skinner … Simmons