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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

High-Rise Review

The Rise and Fall

J. G. Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist who is best known for his apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic writing. Two of his novels, "Crash" and "Empire of the Sun", have been adapted to the screen and both won critical acclaim. This time, Ben Wheatley tackles Ballard's "High-Rise", a futuristic view of big city life in Great Britain, and if this is where we're headed, we're in a heap of trouble.

At its beginning, we get a quick glimpse into a society in disarray, before Wheatley whisks us three months back in time to a far more peaceful scene. Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), is a low-key neurologist who has recently moved into a beautiful apartment on the 25th floor of a building that has approximately 50 floors. 

His positioning is important because the building operates as a hierarchy where the higher, more expensive floors equate to the most prestige. The surrounding landscape features similar high-rises and parking lots. When you look outside Laing's window, that's all that is visible.

On the top floor of the building, resides the building's architect and mastermind, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), who lives with his estranged wife (Keeley Hawes) in an apartment that almost defies logic. It includes the roof, which has a rooftop garden that seemingly stretches for miles. Horses run free amongst the flowers and trees. It's almost a Garden of Eden, but utopia only exists on the highest floors of the building.

At first, things are peaceful for Laing and he is fairly happy in his new apartment. He has met a woman in the building and they are enjoying each other. From this point on, things begin to change, and "High-Rise" heads downhill in living conditions and as a film. What started out as an oddly serene setting begins to descend into chaos. Strife begins to spread through the building as a class war erupts. 

Wheatley takes us into a downward ride that reminds one of "Lord of the Flies" and "Caligula". What started out so promisingly becomes trash intended to shock while making a statement about the breakdown of society. It's difficult for me to remember a film that dropped so quickly into unwatchable stupidity. Even worse it becomes a bore. By the time it ends, you'll be thankful to see the closing credits. "High-Rise" crashes like a towering inferno.

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