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The two sides of High-Rise

OUT NOW: Our critics tell us what worked and what sucked about Ben Wheatley's experimental thriller HIGH-RISE, based on J.G. Ballard’s dystopic classic.

Pro: Set in an alternative 1970s, Amy Jump’s flawless screenplay based on J. G. Ballard’s dystopic classic follows dapper forensic pathologist Robert Laing (Hiddleston, eschewing past typecasting) as the newest resident of an exclusive housing complex. As he navigates the hierarchical structure, the insulated societal microcosm descends into Lord of the Flies territory. For his first adaptation, director Ben Wheatley helms an allegorically rich exploration of class systems and who we are behind our masks – literally, at one point. He perfectly balances satirical drama and dryly comedic undertones while creating a scarily relevant social commentary. The themes and note-perfect design invite comparisons with A Clockwork Orange and, while it will undoubtedly polarise, Wheatley’s latest stuns you, like Kill List and Sightseers before it. It’s not just one of the year’s most disorientating films, but a future cult classic. DM Con: A movie like High-Rise demands respect for its scale and audacity alone. That said, Wheatley’s jumbled, overblown opera exemplifies how disasters can happen when a filmmaker allows their experimental passion to get the best of them. Starting out on a promisingly apocalyptic note, the film grabs you
with an eccentric premise and huge, manically groomed set pieces. As it goes through the many tenants of the titular building to whip up a steadily wilder storm, however, the narrative also spins out of control, drowned by thunderously hollow razzle-dazzle. Wheatley has an eye for extreme, graphic visualisations as well as the guts to back up any idea, but he didn’t have the discipline needed to sculpt provocative scenes into a meaningful whole. Those looking for an equally bleak and radical cinematic imagining of human society set in a claustrophobic, compartmentalised space would be bet- ter served checking out Joon-ho Bong’s masterful Snowpiercer. ZS High-Rise | Directed by Ben Wheatley (UK, Ireland, Belgium 2015) with Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons.