ByJames Porter, writer at
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James Porter

Adapted from the novel by J.G Ballard, High-Rise centers on Dr. Robert Laing, a man new to the high-rise. He attempts to climb the social ladder only to find it crumble on his way up, the entire complex quickly runs out of control and Robert is caught right in the middle of the chaos.

Director Ben Wheatley is the man in charge of this artistically anarchic story of the struggle for power, the class system erupting and the collective breakdown of a fictionalized apartment complex.

Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) stars among a great cast including Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6), Sienna Miller (American Sniper), Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love) and Jeremy Irons (Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice). The performances are all great, especially that of Hiddleston and Evans, two actors who just command the screen in their radically different roles.

Hiddleston is the newcomer to the tower, a head doctor with aspirations of climbing the social ladder, he quickly learns about the people in the tower and that everything isn't quite as it seems. He purchases a bachelor pad close to the top of the tower and within a day of living there, he's quickly aware of the class conflict within the tower. The poorer tenants reside at the bottom of the complex, with the wealthy living in the upper half. Every resident pays the same rent but the poorer individuals don't receive their fair share. On the lower levels, the electricity is constantly cutting out and the garbage chute is always jammed. Understandably, this discrimination causes a stir within some tenants. The bubbling feud between lower and upper class is seen an simply a "teething problem" by the high-rise's architect.

What's so ingeniously attractive about High-Rise is the high-rise itself. Wheatley, screenwriter Amy Jump and original novelist J.G Ballard have created a living, breathing entity that is this absurd complex. There's an entire class system within the high-rise, starting from the bottom with the below working class and working it's way up through the classes until you reach the 40th floor where the designer of the complex resides, played by Jeremy Irons.

The film is a modern/slightly futuristic vision of the 1970's, it feels very contemporary but incredibly retro at the same time. Wheatley has created a world filled with sideburns, pornstaches and shag carpets. The set design is absolutely marvelous, the higher you get up the tower, the more ornate the locations become and the set design is one of the film's biggest strengths when paired with the gorgeous cinematography which breathes life into the high-rise.

The high-rise has been built to serve the needs of all it's tenants. A supermarket and gym among other necessities are included in the high-rise, but somehow none of this was able to stop the impending chaos. The building has only triggered the resident's desire for riotous behavior and ultimate destruction of this seemingly perfect living space.

Perhaps even more interesting than the high-rise itself are the characters that reside within it. At a glance, most of the residents seem like functional, well structured individuals, but by the end of the film, no one is the same. On a dime, the film quickly divulges into absolute chaos. I was wondering whether or not I had missed a narrative beat when distracted by the excellent set design, but I was informed afterwards that I had indeed not. Some may see this as an issue but I found that it only added to the film's rare and quite compelling absurdity. Instantly the classes clash and the entire complex is transformed into an unconventional war zone.

High-Rise is a little too long, I would have preferred a tighter, more concise run time of around 100 minutes. Some of the proceedings do take time and it doesn't have the best pacing. I admired the films look as well as it's refusal to conform to a conventional way of storytelling. High-Rise is most certainly the most surreal film of 2016 so far and one I recommend if you're looking for something rather different at the cinema, I'm giving it an 8.2/10.

What did you think of High-Rise? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @JamesPorter97


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