High-Rise, directed by Ben Wheatley, is a comically dark and stylistically unrelenting film. Filled with big characters who dominate their scenes and an existence that while isolated from the outside, seems so much bigger than anything else going on. High-Rise is a film that attracts you in with its slick style and then overtime forces you (almost without you realising it) to watch as its inhabitants tear each other apart in the most primal of ways.
The story of High-Rise focuses on Dr. Robert Laing – played by Tom Hiddleston – who moves into an apartment in a tower block that is reasonably new. However, as with any good story, things start to take a turn for the worse. This is a high-rise that eerily resembles that of the structural class system in modern society – and so soon the lower levels and the higher levels come to odds over the unequal way in which the tower block is being run. As you can imagine, pandemonium and fits of grotesque rage begin to fill the halls.
The thing that will undoubtedly jump out at you in High-Rise is the diverse and eclectic number of characters. From the sexually charged and mischievous to the strict and proper and all the way up to the out of touch bourgeoisie – High-Rise is a film that constantly keeps you engaged with its characters. There interactions are so very different from your normal ones and the excitement and the fun that erupts from them is intoxicating. Things get even more interesting – but also unsettling – when things take a turn for the worse (boy is that an understatement) and the tower blocks inhabitants begin to distrust, dislike and inevitably dismantle the others around them.
Aiding the great characters are some really eerie performances that are totally commanding in every scene. The actors really disappear into their roles and range from tension inducing to laughter causing. You have the reliability and suave of Tom Hiddleston, the explosive danger of Luke Evans, the seductive fun of Sienna Miller and so may more great and attention grabbing performances. These are actors who along with other elements of the film add layer upon layer of joyous watching.
I think something that also elevated the characters and the performances behind them was the dialogue in the film. On the surface, the character interactions seem quite pleasant and inviting at first. But as things begin to escalate and you not only tune into what the characters are truly saying, but also begin to think back on things they said before – what you begin to realise is something much darker and more antagonistic about it all. It’s this level of detail that is one of the many reasons why keeping your attention solely on the film is a must (not that you’ll want to direct it anywhere else) and why High-Rise is such a rewarding watch.
High-Rise is a film that almost seems to tap into that primal element in your brain and make you feel bad for enjoying the chaos that it presents. There you are watching a fun, sexy and mysterious film and you’re more than enjoying it and then all of a sudden it flips the script on you and drags you without warning into a world where decency and fun no longer exist. With violent imagery and disturbing concepts – this is a film that slowly plays its hand, and when it’s revealed, you almost don’t know how to react – except to just sit there and watch the madness unfold. This is a film that is impossible to not have some sort of visceral emotional reaction too – whether it’s genuine laughter that evolves into unsettled laughter (as was the case for some members of the audience that I was sitting with) or it is stunned silence (that one’s harder to nail down on whether people in the same audience were doing that, I mean I had a film to watch, I couldn’t be staring at people’s faces) High-Rise is a film that will drill its way into your head and set-up camp.
While the films concept and characters are drilling into your head, the visual delights in High-Rise are implanting themselves into your retina. This is a film with an incredible level of detail – the art department and set designers did some brilliant work when creating the look and feel of this film. Every character is dressed head-to-toe in clothes from the era, while the sets that those characters reside in are bathed in the loud, garish colours and shapes that made the 1970’s décor what it was. Weirdly there is also something that unease’s you when seeing the world of 1970’s become a battleground in the way it does. It’s almost as if the clean, warm look to it all, ends up magnifying the horrific nature of what then begins to happen – like watching a miniature version of Britain tear itself apart. Seeing this very 70’s looking tower block descend into something from a horror film put me at a level of discomfort that I wasn’t expecting. However it does certainly add to the excitement.
High-Rise is a film that had such an over-whelming effect on me by the end. There is so much to see and experience and by the end I was looking for the closest pub, so I could get a beer down me and then I could attempt to digest all that it had offered up. It was at this point where I began to realise, that despite so much goodness, High-Rise doesn’t completely nail its story down. The films running time clocks in at 2 hours and so with such length it does mean that things get a little lost by the end – it loses steam as it gets closer to the end – and then in the end kind of falls on a flat note. It’s disappointing because everything else in the film is so brilliantly crafted. Perhaps if it had tightened things up a bit and been more concise in what it was trying to accomplish, then things may have ended stronger.
But with that being said, High-Rise is still such a dominating experience. Nearly everything feeds into a film that will leave you thinking long and hard about its concept, its characters and what it was trying to say about society as a whole – and if nothing else it will make you want to go out and get its soundtrack immediately, because it’s a winner.
I am of course going to recommend High-Rise. This is a film that takes over and forces you into a world of madness, excitement and fascination. So much of it will delight you but so much of it will also unsettle you.
So what are your thoughts on High-Rise? I’d love to hear them in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my other ramblings, you can either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. So I’ll leave you with a thank you and the wishes of a good weekend for you.