Based on the book by J. G. Ballard, High-Rise is about the residence of a cutting edge building block who begin to fall into corruption caused by their social class discrepancy. The building is designed to have the working class on the lower levels, the middle in the center, and upper class on the higher levels. The dilemma, of course, comes from the working class’ fight to prove that they too deserve the same building amenities received by the upper class. After a few power outages, each social class begins to defend their rights. As the clock ticks, the residents turn to violence and vandalism, and despite the animosity and debauchery, the residents refuse to leave the building. If you scratch the surface, it is clear that the building and every corruption is just a big ball of metaphor representing the world and the day to day struggles that occur due to different social classes living under the same roof. Think A Clockwork Orange meets George Orwell’s 1984. Director Ben Wheatley uses Ballard’s story to showcase the dark and sinister side of humanity.
When it comes to presentation, this film is nearly a work of perfection; the visuals are undeniably pleasing to the eye. Shots stick with you even hours after the credits roll. There’s also a fantastic soundtrack to accompany the visually gratifying cinematography. Another huge plus is the all star cast. When you have big names like Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, and Jeremy Iron, it goes without saying that the acting is top-notch. Every line is delivered beautifully, and the characters are equally well crafted.
And while the appearance and performance of the film is excellent, things get a bit messy when it comes to storytelling. The story fails to have a focal point. It’s not particularly hard to understand the overarching narrative, it’s just not done in an overly effective manner. High-Rise could have greatly benefited from showing the more sinister nature of human beings. It’s a shame really, but the storytelling is vague and relatively aimless. Instead of having numbers of random dance outbreaks and sex scenes, there could have been more of those fantastic still shots capturing human grief and sadness.Then again, I suppose opinions will differ depending on what class you personally feel for.
In the end, High-Rise has more pros than cons. The visuals are stunning, the soundtrack is fantastic, the acting is excellent, and the narrative which hatches beneath the surface is an intriguing one. The failure of delivering all of that in a meaningful manner is what hinders it from reaching its full potential. A more careful approach could have been taken since an unconventional and nonlinear method of storytelling is used. This is a film that will be disliked by a lots of folks out there, but if you allow yourself to sleep on it and read a little deeper into the story, you might be surprised at how much you actually enjoyed the movie. At least, that was the case with me.
High-Rise is available on BluRay, DVD, and VOD platforms on August 2nd.
Beautiful, but Messy