High-Rise Review
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Most of us have had to deal with crazy neighbors—and the more people you put together in an apartment building, the higher your chance of surrounding yourself with eccentric characters. But in director Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, one man’s entire apartment building spirals into insanity.

High-Rise stars Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing, a physiologist who moves into a state-of-the-art new high-rise building outside London in the ‘70s. He quickly discovers that the building has its own rules and hierarchies, with the common people living on the lower floors and the most important residents partying away in the grand penthouse owned by architect Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons). But when the self-contained community’s carefully controlled environment begins to crumble, the lower floors begin to revolt, and the building erupts into chaos.

Based on the 1975 novel by J. G. Ballard, High-Rise seems to promise a kind of darkly amusing descent into collective insanity. The building’s retro-modern amenities are as eccentric as the residents and their vibrant ’70s attire—and the opening scene, which flashes ahead to the aftermath, seems gleefully savage. Unfortunately, though, the film quickly loses its entertainment value as it becomes more hollow, pretentious, and grim—and less comprehensible.

As the building descends into mayhem and confusion, so does the story itself. While the wealthiest residents set out to plan the biggest, most fabulous party in an attempt to outdo the rowdy commoners, Wilder (Luke Evans) sets out to document the growing savagery (which, of course, makes him the building’s greatest threat). The rest of the story, however, is just sheer madness: wild parties, looting, orgies, and brutal fights over the last can of grey paint at the building’s grocery store. It all feels like it’s just bizarre for the sake of being bizarre—and none of it is especially interesting.

The message, meanwhile, is too painfully obvious. It certainly isn’t original in its depiction of the evils of capitalism—nor is it especially successful. It lacks subtlety—and allure. It’s just a chaotic mess, constantly force-fed to viewers, scene after scene after perplexing scene. And if a viewer somehow manages to miss the point along the way, it all comes to a close with a recording of Margaret Thatcher speaking about the power of capitalism.

There are some intriguing characters here, but they aren’t fully developed. And though it’s certainly a visually arresting film, the message is forced—and it all gets lost in the story’s drawn-out, disorienting chaos. If you’re interested in a truly original exploration of the evils of capitalism and the class system, try Snowpiercer instead.

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