My first taste of this year’s BFI London Film Festival was Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, a film based on the 1975 novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard. High-Rise is one of the more bizarre films you could wish to see but its perfect blend of out-there characters and devilish humour make it one of the most mesmerising films of the last few years.
In 1975 London, Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a young doctor seduced by the lifestyle in a high-rise, created by Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) as an isolated community cut off from the rest of society.
Laing meets many of the high-rise’s residents and soon realises that normality isn’t something easy to find on any of the floors. One of the residents, Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), who works as a documentary filmmaker, takes it upon himself to expose the class injustices that come as a way of life in the high-rise, causing a dangerous social situation to arise and social groups breaking up into violent tribes.
Believe it or not, High-Rise is the first Ben Wheatley film I have seen however, if this is anything to go by, I will need to check out the rest of his filmography right away. Wheatley has that rare quality as a filmmaker to make a film feel unique within its genre, with High-Rise being quite unlike many thrillers I’ve ever seen.
The film is brilliantly written by Amy Jump, a long time collaborator with Wheatley, with the twisted characters clashing throughout with the equally twisted screenplay devilishly weaving its way from floor to floor. The social commentary that both the book and film delves into regarding the developments in technology warping the human psyche is such an interesting aspect of the story and one that resonates very loud and clear in today’s world.
The performances in High-Rise play a massive part in making it such an engrossing watch. Each and every one of the actors delves right into the psyche of their respective character and look like they’re having an absolute blast taking them on such a downward spiral. Tom Hiddleston just oozes class and yet again delivers a fine performance, though for me, the most impressive performance comes from Luke Evans as the mentally tortured Wilder.
The film is also shot incredibly well, with Mark Tildesley’s production design being brought to life through some wonderful cinematography from another long time collaborator with Wheatley, Laurie Rose. Clint Mansell’s menacing score really does bring that sense of impending chaos to the fore and accompanies the film’s visuals very effectively.
Of course, with any film as bonkers as High-Rise, comes the chance that audiences may feel alienated from the plot and characters however, if you are willing to switch your mind to escape mode, High-Rise may prove as captivating to you as it was to me.