High Rise, film review: ‘Tom Hiddleston shines in chaotic 70s tower block terror story’

17:00 17 March 2016

Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Moss star in High Rise

Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Moss star in High Rise

Archant

High Rise is yesterday’s dystopian vision today.

In J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel, life in a 40-storey tower block populated by the middle to upper classes quickly degenerates into frenzied hedonism and then brutal anarchy as the different floors battle against each other for resources and power.

The lower floors are led by ruffian documentary maker Wilder (Evans), the upper floors by the architect of the tower, Royal (Irons), and somewhere in the middle is Laing (Hiddleston) a doctor who is trying to avoid any alignments.

Wheatley opts for a period setting but it’s barely noticeable apart from a few fashion choices and pregnant women smoking and drinking.

Updating it would’ve been pointless and probably counterproductive: firstly because high rise living is such a 70s topic and secondly because Ballard’s creations exist parallel to reality.

They don’t date, but they look stupid applied to the present day, or any present day.

As food runs out and the killings start, the occupants can’t 
bring themselves to leave the mayhem.

It is like Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, where guests at a middle class dinner party find themselves trapped and unable to leave.

The worst thing you can do while adapting Ballard is to take it seriously and for an hour or so Wheatley’s approach – to play it as a freewheeling black comedy – works quite nicely.

But as life in the block degenerates into chaos, so does the film. It needs to find some realistic and methodical way to portray a descent into barbarism that upholds the social niceties, and it can’t.

Instead we get fobbed off with a number of chaotic montages of sex and violence and are really left to do it ourselves.

If Wheatley and screenwriter Amy Jump can’t find an equivalent of Ballard’s voice, than at least Hiddleston does.

At one point he turns up in a tuxedo at what turns out to be a fancy dress party.

He looks out of place, as he does throughout the film.

He always seems to be acting in a completely different, almost certainly much better, film.

I don’t think I can remember a performer so disconnected, so isolated from the performers around him.

Which is, of course, perfect for the part.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

For longer reviews and a look at the Blu-ray release of Eureka, click here.

Related articles

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

09:00
Alan Titchmarsh, who is spearheading the Butterfly Conservation's Plant Pots for Pollinators campaign. PA Photo/Butterfly Conservation

In his Hampshire garden, green-fingered guru Alan Titchmarsh has swathes of butterfly and bee-friendly plants – from buddleia and verbena to catmint, cosmos and coneflower.

Yesterday, 20:11
Middlesex's Dawid Malan

Dawid Malan celebrated his first game as Middlesex’s T20 skipper with a classy knock of 93 as his side hammered Hampshire by 69 runs.

Yesterday, 17:00
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in THE NICE GUYS. Picture: Daniel McFadden

Shane Black has had his ups and downs in Hollywood – going from a million dollar screenwriter (Lethal Weapon) in the ‘80s to being largely ignored in the ‘90s.

Yesterday, 12:58
Nurul Islam celebrates at his Belsize Park kiosk with customers and Ham&High reporter Emily Banks, right.       Picture: Polly Hancock

The vendor who runs the Belsize Park newspaper kiosk today thanked his customers for pressuring Camden Council into doing a u-turn over the rent hike which threatened his business.

Yesterday, 12:00
Ava Potter as Lilly in Michael Morpurgo's Running Wild. Picture: Johan Persson

Reuniting a Michael Morpurgo story with ex-War Horse puppeteers– in the glade-like Regent’s Park theatre - sounded an enticing prospect for a children’s show.

Yesterday, 11:17
Gabriella with mum Nazanin on her first birthday

A distraught father whose daughter faces her second birthday detained in Iran without her parents has urged children around the world to send her a birthday card.

Yesterday, 10:56
Victor in Delhi

A ‘smart and popular’ 22-year-old who died in a motorbike crash has been remembered at his former school.

Yesterday, 09:00
Interiors themed wedding gifts any couple would love

Looking to buy a wedding gift that’s not on the list? Here are 17 chic buys that are guaranteed to make any couple supremely happy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe