Movie review of “High-Rise”: Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons star in this tale about the tenants of a swank 40-story apartment building who gradually succumb to feral anarchy. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
It has the right look. It has the right sound. But the overly frantic editing job on “High-Rise,” a film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 dystopian satire, may leave some viewers scratching their heads.
In Ballard’s ecstatic-nihilistic urban fable, the tenants of a swank 40-story apartment building, moved by “a logic more powerful than reason,” gradually succumb to feral anarchy. Peeved at first by their building’s mounting troubles — power outages, stuck elevators, clogged garbage chutes — they mysteriously come to embrace complete social breakdown. They divide into factions and conduct raids between the floors. Their sexual urges take a turn for the transgressive.
The book revels in its own absurd understatement as its lawyers, accountants and other urban professionals join the tribalist-survivalist mayhem. Ballard’s cool clinical prose may be gleefully perverse, but it’s never confusing.
Movie Review ★★
‘High-Rise,’ with Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons. Directed by Ben Wheatley, from a screenplay by Amy Jump, based on a novel by J.G. Ballard. 119 minutes. Rated R for violence, disturbing images, strong sexual content/graphic nudity, language and some drug use. SIFF Cinema Egyptian.
The same can’t be said for the film. Director Ben Wheatley (“Kill List”) gets off to a good start by casting Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing, a new arrival in the high-rise who’s James Bond-sharp in his attire — and looks just as good with his clothes off. Jeremy Irons is a fine fit, too, as the high-rise’s distracted penthouse-dwelling architect who’s starting to have doubts about his creation.
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Unfortunately as festivities in the building turn violent and/or orgiastic, Wheatley keeps resorting to high-speed montages rather than slyly crafted scenes. Cinematographer Laurie Rose certainly knows his way around a camera, delivering one striking image after another, and Clint Mansell’s score — aided by a lot of ironically deployed Bach — adds atmospheric touches.
But when you can’t follow the action, the fancy furnishings are to no avail.