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.

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