Sociological Sci-Fi


12 May 2016| No Comments on High-Rise     by Sean Chavel


The kind of unusual avante-garde dare I live for, I only wish I liked it. High-Rise is class warfare gone violently berserk in a tower apartment building, set in 1975 London to match the J.G. Ballard novel it’s based on. The reason why the film doesn’t succeed is an odd complaint of mine that I sometimes have: It has too many images. Director Ben Wheatley (“Sightseers,” another over-done movie) seemed to become attached to several different montages of anarchy, each with its own baroque visual craft and caustic tune, and couldn’t decide which ones to ax in the editing room so he kept them all in no matter how repetitious his film became. I believe there is a good film here with the raw material, but I think twenty minutes needed to be shaved from its 118 minute running time.

Tom Hiddleston is exceptional in the lead role as the lithe Dr. Robert Laing, both thoughtful but amoral. It’s the kind of performance here, in contrast with his others (say “Midnight in Paris,” “Only Lovers Left Alive”), that leads me to believe he is capable of playing anything. I look forward to seeing him broaden his range further.

The Laing character, living on the twenty-fifth floor (get it? halfway up), is lured by the denizens below him and above him to join a clique. In time, he has carnal relations with both the hoity-toity socialite and the working class mom. At the top is the architect Royal (Jeremy Irons), who is, in immediate observation, a narcissistic foe for all. The art direction at the top, is of course, pretty great in its outlandishness and not unlike old century Versailles. You have a blue collar brute like Wilder (Luke Evans, not badly played), a second floor resident, who ignites a war after a group of kids he’s chaperoning are kicked out of the pool area for the sake of the upper classes claiming rights to it, who, soon enough, wants to kill Royal and any underling like him. And then you have a bunch of less compelling weirdos, too, who complain about bad electricity and lack of power (figuratively and literally) as they dwell in the lower floors.

The film gets violent, but you forget what the interplay’s motivations were just minutes before. Wheatley has great taste in film if you check out imdb.com, and it’s obvious to me that Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam are big inspirations for him. Before I review a film, especially when I’m on the fence, I often ask myself this: Am I glad for this film’s existence in the first place? Yes, I am. But I can’t help but wish somebody would take this film and re-cut it because as it stands, to me, it’s only an interesting bad film. There’s only so much imagery I can take of crazed men carrying on like apes to trash the tower. What I am definitely thankful for is that it’s pushed me to go buy a copy of the novel which I now must read. Ballard (“Empire of the Sun,” “Crash”) is one of the most pungent of atmospheric writers.

118 Minutes. Rated R.



Film Cousins: “The Exterminating Angel” (1964, Spain); “The War of the Roses” (1989); “Crash” (1996); “Snowpiercer” (2013).

HIGH-RISE_2016_ Movie

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


There are No Comments about this post

Add Yours!

You must be logged in to post a comment.