Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast; Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, Keeley Hawes, Dan Renton Skinner, Sienna Guillory, Enzo Cilenti, Peter Ferdinando, Reece Shearsmith, Augustus Prew, Stacy Martin, Leila Mimmack, Tony Way, Neil Maskell, Alexandra Weaver, Emilia Jones, Victoria Wicks, Bill Paterson, Dylan Edwards, Toby Williams, Eileen Davies, Maggie Cronin.
Brutal and dark, deeply disturbing and a tremendously excellent film, it seems strange then in that case that it has taken the best part of four decades to get J.G. Ballard’s High Rise to the screen but then it would not have had arguably the best actor for the role of the slowly mentally disintegrating Dr. Robert Laing in Tom Hiddleston.
If successive Governments have tried to achieve anything more since the Second World War it is perhaps in the act of destruction of society, the unpicking of the loose ties that bind us, the unspoken rules that keep us on the straight and narrow without descending into complete and utter anarchy. The ability to put more and more people into tower blocks, call them apartments and have jealousy wheedle its ugly head into the minds of the tenants; for nobody in the right mind should live in a place where the oxygen becomes so light that it affects the brains and reasoning.
High Rise may have worked as social commentary when released as a novel in the 70s, it arguably resonates more today with cinema audiences who have seen the upheaval of four decades of the community split apart and the estates so beloved of planners and the guardians of the public purse become in some cases problems, difficulties and areas of hotly contested dispute; a dispute to which even the high and mighty refuse to sort out from the very top of their ivory towers.
It is this form of social climbing and reflections on the divisions between those deemed only worth living on the bottom of society’s ladder and those to whom, as in the film, having a horse on the penthouse roof, is seen as a right and under Ben Wheatley’s overall directing seeing eye, the comparisons between the two era’s has never been more sharply in focus.
The breakdown in communication, the treating of some as nothing more than an insignificant spectacle, something to be toyed with rather than seen as an equal in the fight, the terror of seeing your fellow man used and abused in such a way that anxiety easily falls down around you; all of these disintegrating patterns incredibly captured with true vision by a cast that oozes class.
Chiefly among these is Tom Hiddleston, who really does look as though he is making all the right noises to be considered as the next James Bond, and the fantastic Luke Evans as the anarchic driven documentary film maker Richard Wilder. Both actors make the film dance in chaos and rebellion, the interaction between them pulsing with fear, respect and loathing, a case for the dramatic perhaps never being more clear.
Society was never meant to be like this and yet with just enough small nudges, with all the right dominoes in place, everything can come crashing down in lawlessness and ungovernable, unruly bricks, mortar and public dust.
A testament to the vision of J.G. Ballard, High Rise was worth waiting four decades for.
Ian D. Hall