By: Daniel Chadwick-Shubat
High Rise is the typical Ben Wheatley movie. It’s super violent, really funny and its premise challenges the audience to actually think while watching it, a big plus in my mind. But the big difference with High Rise is that Wheatley has been given a big budget and an amazing cast of well known actors to work with. A Field in England (also directed by Ben Wheatley) was one of my favourite movies of 2013 and blew my mind with it’s ingenuity and gritty look at the English Civil War.
High Rise revolves around a doctor Robert Laing, who moves into a new luxury apartment building, owned by rich tenants who love throwing extravagant parties and engaging in orgies (Eyes Wide Shut style). Sitting atop of this building is Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons) who’s apartment cannot be described (just completely extraordinary). As Dr. Laing starts getting used to life in the High Rise he starts getting caught up in the complex moral compass that rules the high rise.
He befriends a documentary film maker, Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), who’s relegated to the second floor and hellbent on showcasing the injustices happening in this luxury community. With this one decision Wilder starts a war between the different classes of the high rise, a tribal war.
While High Rise has been advertised as Tom Hiddleston’s movie, Luke Evans shines the brightest as Wilder. His performance is very layered as we get to see many different sides of Wilder and the raw emotion we get to see from Evans makes this one of his best performances to date.
Sienna Miller impresses as well as Mr. Royal’s secretary bringing a certain joy to a otherwise horrifyingly violent satire. Jeremy Irons is convincing as the ignorant Mr. Royal, who in Pontius Pilate type fashion decides to wash his hands of any responsibility and let the problem solve itself.
Tom Hiddleston is his usual self, excelling in his role as Robert and really shines next to Mrs. Wilder (Elisabeth Moss). With The Night Manager and I Saw the Light Hiddleston is having one hell of a year so far.
High Rise is an incredibly funny look at the huge gap between the lower class and the higher class and somehow becomes relevant to our current situation across the world, specifically in Britain. What makes it even more funny is that the world is going on as per usual as chaos and violence erupts in this high rise. Wheatley presents this fact rather comically reminding me of that scene in Sightseers when the protagonist kills someone for littering. While the movie is shocking it’s just audacious to think that everything is going normally in the outside world.
High Rise has been in development hell for years. Many filmmakers had tried for years to adapt it (Cronenberg being the first choice thanks to his great adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s Crash) but finally in Wheatley we’ve found someone who can do the book justice. Personally I’m going through the book right now and the movie definitely lived up to its source material. Bring on Free Fire Ben Wheatley!
While thoroughly enjoyable High Rise isn’t without its flaws. In my mind it missed some great opportunities to add more comedy but instead added useless scenes of violence. I think in many ways this movie will be a lot like Birdman. High Rise will divide opinion and some people will absolutely love it, others hate it with a burning fashion. A lot of people will be strongly against its dark comedy and over the top violence. Others will love it for its dark comedy, artistic approach and likeness to Snowpiercer (except its in a building instead of a train). It’s a political movie done right and a truly memorable cinematic experience.
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