Review: High Rise
High Rise stars Tom Hiddlestone in Ben Whitley’s top new release.
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Ben Whitley’s High Rise takes the modern concept from which it gets its title and stretches it to its extremes, the result of which is very engaging, but does it work, or emulate its subject matter and start to fail and break?
Based on the novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard, High Rise tells three connected stories. The first one of the three is the story of Robert Laing (Tom Hiddlestone), as he moves into his new apartment on the 25th floor of the building that has all come about thanks to the vision of “The Architect”, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons). The “vision” that he is responsible for is a model of society, with the higher up in society you are, the higher floor you live in the High Rise, putting Laing as upper middle class. The third story follow is that of Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), the aggressive, egotistical documentary maker who seems to be having an affair with almost every woman in the building.
As time goes on, the three storylines start to intersect, with the three men meeting each other at one of the High Rise’s nightly parties, while at the same time, we see tensions between the floors of the High Rise start to mount, with the lower floors angered over the favorable treatment that the higher floors receive. The tensions get higher and higher, until, WHAM! Fights break out and the whole building goes to war with the lower floors fighting with the higher floors. The movie then follows two main stories, Laing as he becomes more and more obsessed with life in the High Rise, and Wilder as he tries to ascend the building to kill the Architect.
First of all, this movie is worth going to just for the concept itself. For an example of this kind of idea working well, look at the Indonesian film The Raid, where this kind of level-by-level action is captivating. However, unlike The Raid, this film is not a martial arts movie. The fighting in this, for lack of a better word, is English. And petty. If you think you are going to watch an action movie, think again. This movie is completely character based.
The characters themselves are another huge draw of the movie. Hiddlestone’s quiet Laing, who can be also be loud, is almost pitch perfect, as well as being a lot more three dimensional than he is in the book. Sienna Miller as Charlotte Melville, the woman who lives above Laing and who Laing develops a relationship with, shows her hard exterior and hides the much more vulnerable and secret Charlotte underneath. However, the real stand out, and the one that you would least expect, is Luke Evans as the ambitious anti-hero Richard Wilder. His ascent to the top of the High Rise, and his interaction with both Miller and Hiddlestone are extremely engaging. He is a revolutionary, and he demands your attention every moment he is on screen.
However, there are some glaring problems with this movie. The movie, for those who haven’t read the book, can be extremely confusing at some parts. The pace of the movie, on the whole, is very slow, which continues to be slow throughout. With it some times lagging, combined with the confusing aspects of the plot line, it is hard to think that this movie will be a successful mainstream movie.
However, overall this movie works. If you are willing to look past its issues with pace and not try to much to concentrate on the plot, then you will see that this is a very engaging and beautifully made piece of cinema, that is defiantly worth a watch.