Well-to-do doctor Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into the 25th floor of an experimental high-rise apartment complex on the outskirts of London in 1975, attracted by the upper-class lifestyle promoted by its architect named Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons). The building is secluded from the outside world and functions as its own autonomous community; in addition, it’s organized by a rigid caste system, with the least wealthy residents situated on the lower floors. Laing befriends a documentary filmmaker named Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) who lives on the second floor, and soon becomes aware of the social inequities within the complex. As tensions between the tenants boil over, an all-out war erupts that divides the classes into violent tribes vying for the top floors.
This film is a special one since it has the distinction of being the only film that has been reviewed twice here. Once by me (now) and once by my friend Dan from getreelmovies.com which you can read here. He liked it enough to make it one of my movies of the month for April. I knew about it for a long time and wanted to see it myself even before Dan reviewed it but now I have finally gotten to see it. Did I like it as much as he did? Read on to find out. Just keep in mind that my review won’t be a rebuttal as reviews are based on one’s opinion so he is entitled to his just as much as I am entitled to mine. If you don’t like mine, you’ll always have his to fall back on.I will also say that I haven’t read the book in which this is based.
The plot starts pretty early on where we are shown where things have gone within the highrise and of course, things are looking bleak. But how did we get there? The plot tried to explain that by going back 3 months with Laing moving in to his apartment in the highrise. Laing serves as a vehicle for us to experience what the highrise has to offer as well as all the different people who live in it. We learn that things work a little differently within the building, functioning as its own independent entity. We also learn about the class system with people of ascending wealth in ascending floors with the poorer people at the bottom and the richer people at the top.
The film gave us representations of these classes with a married couple named Richard and Helen Wilder (Evans and Elisabeth Moss) representing the poorer end of the spectrum and the architect of the highrise, a man named Mr. Royal (Irons), who lives in the penthouse representing the wealthier end of the spectrum. There is a disparity here but we never really got a sense of it other than through Richard’s own frustration. Mr. Royal is definitely wealthy from his very grandiose-looking penthouse in which you’ll have to see to believe to strutting his wealthiness around while having no regard for anyone else. The differences between him and everyone else was clear and something was definitely going to happen between him and them.
Until that inevitable moment happened, we got to follow Liang and a lot of the other eccentric characters living in the highrise including Mr. Royal, the Wilders, and a woman named Jane (Sienna Miller). This was all fun to watch and all the characters were interesting but we never got to know them on to profound of a level so we never really learned their intentions or motivations. All their stories also felt a little too disconnected from each other and the main plot. The film also contained a lot of dark comedy which did not always work. This section of the film felt a little too long and for most of it, felt like it wasn’t really going anywhere. What made all of this bearable was Evans’ performance as Richard Wilder.
Evans was definitely a scene stealer here as Wilder. A performance that was full of energy in bringing on the crazy, a flawed character for sure that you will definitely love to hate but you still can’t help but to root for him because of what he stands for in making things better for the less fortunate tenants in the highrise. Wilder, a wannabe documentary filmmaker, was fun to watch, trying to expose the highrise and just reaping havoc while trying to cause a revolution. Everyone else was good here but Evans stood out the most.
Once the revolution actually happened, it just occurred all too abruptly as it felt like to was no real build up to it. Almost like going from 0 to 100. Because of this, it lacked a little impact. There was definitely some pent up aggression here amongst the residents but we never really got a sense of it. Also because the film mostly took place in the highrise, it lacked any real perspective. You could probably have inferred this but it still felt out of nowhere. When it finally got let out, everything went to hell and the film took a violent turn with residents taking out their aggression. Despite that, this was still a little interesting and fun to watch, watching people get their comeuppance. The message the film was trying to give was a little unclear, touching on class inequality and elitism, but it was told in too much of a messy and incoherent way.
Other than Evans, the best part of this film has to be its style. The overall production design and just the look of the film was great which made the film very beautiful to look at. They film also utilized a lot of imagery in its storytelling which was also nice to look at as well but sometimes made things a little confusing. The soundtrack was great to listen to and fit very well within the surroundings with the best of it being a much different version of ABBA’s S.O.S.
While not for everyone, as Dan’s review pointed out, which included me. This was still a beautiful film with some great performances but the story and the message kind of got lost on me.