Today: June 20, 2024


Based on JG Ballard’s cult novel High-Rise, for many, was deemed ‘unfilmable’. In order to bring such delectable chaos to the screen it would take a filmmaker not only brave but with their finger on the pulse of how to update, evolve, yet ultimately remain loyal to the source material. Step forward Blighty’s odd-man-out Ben Wheatley.

In an alternative dystopian 1970s Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into the titular building. Before long he’s met his upstairs neighbour Charlotte (Sienna Miller) who is spurring the advances of local newsman Wilder (Luke Evans). Having met The Architect (Jeremy Irons) of the building Laing is invited into the upper echelons of this world. But as the lavish world they live in goes to their heads, and technology begins to fail them, the inhabitants of High-Rise turn their back on society and return to an animalistic way of life.

The first half of High-Rise is stunning. Wheatley lays the foundations for something truly delectably dark. Through Laing’s eyes we witness the elitist world of the High-Rise but never shy from his ability to stomach the deplorable attitudes of these people. One scene even sees Laing in his day job literally peeling the skin off a cadaver to see what is beneath the surface. It’s a stomach churning metaphor that sets the film up perfectly. It is these moments, these thematic nuances that make High-Rise always watchable. It’s chock full of thinly shrouded observations about the hate fuelled world these characters occupy.

In a year in which the likes of the UK and USA are so divided Wheatley’s film feels terrifyingly on point. Normally Wheatley is a filmmaker happy to work on a tight budget, creating intimate and detailed pieces. But High-Rise is easily his most polished and fluent film to date. It is visually stunning, the monolithic High-Rise blinking against the vibrant orange sunsets.

Problems arise when the High-Rise descends into ultimate chaos and anarchy, so too does the film. The focus of the first half is suddenly lost, Hiddleston’s character is sidelined as we begin to follow more and more tenants of the building. They’re all played by a collection of Britain’s finest thesps but, having learned that Laing is one of the few characters able to see the madness as we do, despite giving into it as well, it leaves you feeling disconnected from the heart of the story.

A step-up for Wheatley and more proof that he is a master rowing against the current of cinematic norm High-Rise is nonetheless, like the story itself, “prone to fits of mania, narcissism and power failure.”

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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