“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place,” so opens JG Ballard’s 1975 novel. Fittingly, Ben Wheatley’s long-awaited adaptation opens in much the same manner, with Tom Hiddleston happily munching on a very sweet dog’s leg.
A biting, and once again relevant satire, about materialism, classism and a Lord of the Flies-esque breakdown of society, High-Rise follows Laing (Hiddleston) as he moves into a building that offers, within its floors, a supermarket, a gym, swimming pools and more. The lower classes, families and poorer people, occupy the lower floors, the upper classes, celebrities and the mysterious Architect (Jeremy Irons) occupy the higher stories, and Laing finds himself comfortably in the middle. Pretty quickly, however, he’s seduced by the glitz of the upper floors and as the gap begins to widen society starts to break down. Predictably, things don’t end well. Especially for the dog.
Brutal, bizarre, inventive, with an outstanding cast (rounded out with Elizabeth Moss, Luke Evans and Keeley Hawes) and darkly comic, High-Rise is almost flawless. The sets are stunning, the music is perfect and Wheatley has Ballard’s off-the-wall humour down to a T. But High-Rise is a film that asks a lot of its audience, glossing over some of the more crucial events (namely the breakdown itself) through montages and leaving the watcher to piece it together. The screen time is stretched too thin over the ensemble cast, leaving gaps in their stories here and there.
Though definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, High-Rise is, for those willing to go along for the ride, definitely an experience. It’s the kind of film that leaves one slightly dazed and with a Tory government once again in power, its commentary on society is as relevant as ever.
High-Rise does not have a UK release date yet.