2016. Directed by Ben Wheatley.
Imagine that the children from Lord of the Flies grew up and then moved into an isolated apartment building in a futuristic London. A building that provides all the creature comforts of the outside world, allowing its residents to disconnect from society and form their own tribes, based on the floors they live on. Then imagine things go horribly awry when the building slowly shuts down and rots from within. Welcome to Ben Wheatley's midnight black social satire, High Rise.
This is a film that takes the "what if" dials, cranks them up to 100 and then pulls the knobs off the machine. Once you're strapped in, there is no reprieve until long after the credits roll. Tom Hiddleston stars as Dr. Laing, a new resident who has to navigate the social and sexual hierarchies of the High Rise. As he becomes more adept at the games, he also begins to mentally crack under the constant hedonistic rituals undertaken by the various factions. This is one of Hiddleston's first major leading roles and he eats it up, portraying an observer who can't help himself and ultimately is complicit in the chaos around him.
Jeremy Irons is delicious as the genius, but deeply out of touch architect of the building. Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elizabeth Moss, and Keeley Hawes deliver strong supporting performances as various denizens within the complex. James Purefoy steals the show in an outlandish brutal role as an neo-aristocrat gone mad,
One of the slickest parts of this glossy nightmare is Odile Dicks-Meraux's costume design. The costumes give the appearance of the 70's, when the source novel by J.G. Ballard takes place, but yet also bleed over into the present tense, thus supporting the surreal framework of High Rise. Laurie Rose's cinematography is to die for. The colors are hyper, but constrained, simulating the claustrophobic atmosphere that is enveloping the characters. The violence is visceral and audacious, inducing both cringe worthy rebukes and hilarious snort worthy mayhem.
Ultimately, High Rise is a film that revels in it's nihilism. It's conclusion isn't so much of a resolution as a bold point statement on the dangers of socioeconomic inequality and the wealthy's Antoinette-like approach to their lessers. Wheatley has established himself as one of the most talented filmmakers working today and High Rise is his boldest film yet. It flirts with being a masterpiece only to collapse under it's own rhetoric, mirroring the Black Tie Bacchanal of it's subject matter and that is the most convincing evidence of the film's purpose.
Available for rental digitally, High Rise is a delightfully nasty cautionary experience that commands the senses and the conscious throughout. Highly recommend.