Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter Ferdinando, Sienna Guillory
Written by: Amy Jump, based on the novel by J.G. Ballard
Directed by: Ben Wheatley
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images, strong sexual content/graphic nudity, language and some drug use
Running Time: 119
Date: 05/13/2016

High-Rise (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Building Mistrust

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapted from J.G. Ballard's 1975 cult favorite novel, this movie starts well, but as the story descends into chaos, the movie follows, losing the thread of what it wants to say and why we should care.

Following his sister's death, Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into a state-of-the-art high rise building, built by architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons). He attends some parties and meets some of his neighbors, the chilly Charlotte (Sienna Miller), the volatile Richard (Luke Evans) and the kind, pregnant Helen (Elisabeth Moss).

Before long it becomes apparent that, because the building is equipped with everything (swimming pool, restaurant, etc.), there's no need to leave. However, the residents begin breaking into factions depending on social status, i.e. the rich versus the poor, and all-out chaos ensues. As the building turns into a battleground, Dr. Laing faces some pressing problems: who is he and where does he stand?

Directed by Ben Wheatley, High-Rise has an amazing look, meticulously designed and composed, all concrete and steel angles. For a while, this draws us into the movie's atmosphere, in addition to the outstanding Hiddleston, who is surely one of the most heartfelt of actors working today.

However, it's more designed than directed, like a long TV ad. The movie never gets inside any of the other characters, and eventually Hiddleston has very little to do. The increasing, unsettling pandemonium seems to be for its own sake, for shock value only, with little at stake, and little emotional resonance. Ballard's writing is strong stuff, and can result in potent movies (like Spielberg's Empire of the Sun or Cronenberg's Crash), but Wheatley seems to have become lost in this High-Rise.

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