Review: High-Rise (2015)


Director: Ben Wheatley

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller

Release Date: 19th March 2016 (UK)

Hotly anticipated dystopian caper falls further than flat in flummox of bloodied bananas bullshit.

I could have left it there. I insist however that you read what I have to say about this film. Lets start with the groundwork. I am an absolute sucker for a sexy lobby and a bit of angular 1960’s post-modern concrete architecture, I really am. Ditto a gritty dystopian futuristic novel. I grew up in Tower Hamlets and live on the 14th floor of the largest man-made brick built structure in Europe. If anyone is qualified to speak of such things, I can assure you it is I.

The film opens exactly as we expect, gorgeous lingering artfully lit shots of concrete vistas, photographic notions that include endlessly the entire gamut of a photographer’s first year at Central St Martins. Horizontals, better thirds, symmetry, negative space, mono-colour, conflicting-colour, fill-the-frame, texture. I love this stuff more than the average person and as a wannabe cinematographer the film totally got me off on that level, I cannot lie. That being said, these shots jostle so violently for space for the entire duration of the film that I am currently considering filling in an application to go and make coffee at Pret and leave the whole damn filmic dream behind.

A damb squib of an opening shot (considering how much gorgeous looking footage the editor must have had to play with) delivers us into the high-rise dream with macro-tight lens pull frames and charged symmetrical commuters.

From the outset, I couldn’t quite figure out the setting of this film, whether it was supposed to be 1970 or 2070. Much to my chagrin, the utter confusion only sky rocketed from here on in. We shoot to the silky lipped cliche that is Sienna Miller (Charlotte Mellville) louching it up in a bell sleeved jumpsuit, obviously trite Bradot-esque split-fringed beehive and pursed pink lips. I am at once mesmerised by the stupidness of this movie. This was supposed to be a smart, beautiful, sexy disturbing futuristic thriller by a legendary author. Wasn’t it?

A muddling melange of stolen sound and visual bites plagiarised from better films; Mortensen’s bleeding Bond eye and The Birds’ ripped aural strings begin to overflow. I was hoping to see proper artful subversion and instead I am greeted with faux-Anarchy and hackneyed cliches better suited to an episode of Benny hill, which is to do Benny hill a disservice if I’m honest; as we are batted confoundingly from one hedonistic party to the next. What start as frames of sexy colour-ups hulkingly descend into overwrought overkill of beauty shot after beauty shot as every 180 degree editing rule is broken and the painfully banal 1970’s sweeney-cum-coal miner-come again Luke Evans (Wilder) is spotlighted dancing before an incredibly clever use of shattering glass Foley for a wholly unremarkable, horribly staged image of something falling from great height onto a car.

The usually sublime Keely Hawes (Ann Royal) was woefully underused as something finally happens with the narrative and rot sets in with the residents of our tower block. I hope for a change of pace. I am left totally dispossessed, and the movie descends into absolute film-making chaos as we are treated to cool shots and repetition of montage after montage after montage lacking form, cohesiveness, and saddest of all not even with “Chaos Theory” left intact. Mould, human dissection, and weirdness abound and I fear for the brave filmmakers here because they clearly were as lost as the audience by this stage and have resorted to gore inclusion to try to keep us. They run face first into a glass wall time and again ,that refuses to even do us the justice of smashing. I am bereft. There was one interesting move with a fight scene that was carried by the camera crew that were in the thick of the action which made for a filmic release that I haven’t seen before. This isn’t a saving grace and I wouldn’t recommend filling two precious life hours with what High Rise has to offer in order to see this one sequence just because I am horny for interesting camera. Even the final, mildly brilliant three sentence monologue referencing how some people are self contained can’t save this film.

My head swims with Caligula (1979) as gratuitous violence, bananas overuse of bo-peep outfits (WHAT??) and blood soaked orgies of filth, rape, pregnancy misdemeanours, typecasts and piles of sick and vomit being poked with spades proliferate the screen. Even references to the brilliantly vile (so-bad-they-are-good) SAW movies are not spared as they are stolen and recreated with such boring cliche that I feel, well utterly psychotically flat and devoid of all emotion, good bad or otherwise.. Dog shit on white carpets, people eating dog food, people eating the dog, by this point it had all really gotten so horrendously out of hand that two people had walked out an hour ago. Really.

I wish I had gone with them.

If you want to watch people being beaten almost to death, masses of rape, subjection of women, subjection of animals, subjection of people that live in tower blocks, sodomy and people eating horsemeat dinners whilst someone simultaneously gives birth; then go. You’ll adore this film.

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