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 70s period setting adds flavour to the confusion, as a body of disparate residents in a mythical urban high rise provide a microcosmic snapshot of social hierarchy and class struggle, charting the internal unrest and increasingly violent animosity between the rich, privileged and debauched upper echelons and the impoverished lower levels who can't afford to eat, struggle with power cuts and are generally sneered upon from high above.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.
More wanton disregard for coherence leaves High Rise another acquired taste from Wheatley.
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.
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