Ben Wheatley’s panache for hallucinogenic digression, narrative dissolution and symbolic smothering leave High Rise a heady voyage into depraved dystopia oblivious to the obfuscation of its own intent.The futuristic feel to its period setting adds flavour to the confusion, as a body of residents in a mythical high rise provide a microcosmic snapshot of social hierarchy and class struggle, charting the internal unrest and increasingly violent animosity between the rich and debauched upper echelons and the impoverished lower levels. Our window into this world is provided by Tom Hiddleston’s neurologist Richard Laing, whose eyes slowly widen to the snowballing crises all around him, as he teeters between the two classes, often largely playing voyeur as they tear one another apart; the rebellion propelled by outspoken aggressor Luke Evans, as James Purefoy’s faux toff keeps up appearances – at all costs – and Jeremy Irons’ Architect looks down at the ant farm that he has created with impotent disgust.It feels like the women suffer unduly in this muggy mix, with Keeley Hawes, Sienna Miller, Sienna Guillory and Elisabeth Moss struggling to escape violation at the hands of the rabid dogs of this near-apocalyptic environment, although the narrative is another casualty. The director casually abandons coherence in favour of a general feeling of malaise-borne-into-madness; more keen on socio-politically commentating on class war in an unusual environment (there’s hints of everything from Animal Farm to Lord of the Flies here, only in an atypical setting) than actually telling a story with genuine characters. His eclectic cast instead gleefully jettison reason in favour of the sheer passion within the ‘rich’ period drama, hungry to commit to the pretty, unpleasantness of it all in the hope that the sentiment and symbolism will suffice.
Picture QualityRich in symbolism, and visually opulent, at least High Rise looks excellent.
The 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, High Rise promotes a clinical, clean alternative 70s setting with impressive detail in both the close-ups - which reveal fine textures and skin touches - and in the intricate broader shots, which often hint at the epic scale of the backdrop even if the budget clearly doesn't afford much of an obvious look at it. The colour scheme is suitably period, draped in slightly garish tones, with a few primaries on offer amidst the browns and sickly yellows, but there's little faded or worn about these tones, and black levels are strong and deep, allowing for rich darker sequences and impressive shadow detail. It's far from perfect - some of the darker sequences are not quite as well resolved as others, and there's a hint of softness around the edges during some of the more dreamy orgy-style montages - but it's nevertheless frequently demo worthy enough to be awarded a high score.
Sound QualityThe audio track is more than up for the challenge of bringing this block to life.
Promoted with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, High Rise is surprisingly strong for such a low-key, small-scale affair, building atmosphere and intensity with a well-designed, well-prioritised mix that boasts just the right amount of LFE enhancement. Dialogue rises above the rest of the proceedings, keenly disseminated across the front and centre channels with priority over the remaining elements, where necessary. Effects are intricate and well-observed, picking up on the workings of the high rise, from the shiny life to the broken intercom, with tyres squealing around the car park and the bustle of the parties and group actions further engaging the surrounds. An eclectic blend of Clint Mansell and Portishead define a great score, even if it is far better than the proceedings deserve.
ExtrasThe extras package boasts a hefty swathe of Interviews with almost all of the cast and crew members including the likes of Hiddleston, Miller, Guillory, Evans, Hawes, Irons, Purfoy and Moss, whilst over half a dozen crew members offer their thoughts too in separate Interview segments. There’s also a short Featurette on source novel author J.G. Ballard, but the headlining offering – an Audio Commentary with Director Ben Wheatley, Star Tom Hiddleston and Producer Jeremy Thomas – is probably the best piece on offer here.
VerdictMore wanton disregard for coherence leaves High Rise another acquired taste from Wheatley.
Excellent video and audio and a fairly impressive selection of extra features leaves this a very worthy purchase for both dedicated and devout Wheatley fans and fans of the film itself alike, but those otherwise interested should probably consider a rental first.
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