This is the second goat movie of the week, so I’ll spare the goat puns because you herd them all in my review of The Witch.
High-Rise is the new J. G. Ballard adaptation from Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump, the brilliant duo behind the likes of Sightseers and Kill List. They bring their caustic humour and genre-busting approach to this satirical tale of life in a high-rise apartment block, set in a parallel 1970s London. The result is a bit like Sean Lock’s 15 Storeys High – except, y’know, higher.
Weird and woozy, the film has a distinctly Cronenbergian flavour – from the brutalist Shivers to the apocalyptic Cosmopolis. Rather than a limo, the high-rise itself serves as the vehicle of armageddon; a microcosm of capitalist society in a state of chaos and collapse. It’s an almighty implosion of a movie, both audacious and funny – in the same way that Kubrick films are funny.
Tom Hiddleston leads a talented ensemble, looking great both in and out of a suit. There are welcome appearances from Luke Evans, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss, as well as British comedy regulars Reece Shearsmith, Tony Way and Julia “Marsha from Spaced” Deakin. Plus, Jeremy Irons plays a creepy architect to rival that of The Matrix Reloaded.
In the negative column, the social commentary isn’t as robust as it might be. And the script, like the building’s plumbing, could use some tightening. It’s at once a surrealist comedy, social satire, arthouse sci-fi… There’s a line spoken by Jeremy Irons that could easily apply to the film: “It isn’t that I left an element out; it’s that I put too many in.”
Nevertheless, this is another strong tower block film, with wonderful cinematography by Laurie Rose and music by Clint Mansell – and the best use of ABBA since The Martian. Kaleidoscopic in design, scope and vision, High-Rise is a work of lofty ambition and dizzying success. Aesthetically striking and beautifully directed, decay has never looked so good.