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HIGH-RISE (director: Ben Wheatley; screenwriters: Amy Jump/based on the novel by J.G. Ballard; cinematographer: Laurie Rose; editors: Amy Jump/Ben Wheatley; music: Clint Mansell; cast: Tom Hiddleston (Dr. Robert Laing), Jeremy Irons (Anthony Royal), Sienna Miller (Charlotte), Luke Evans (Richard Wilder), Elisabeth Moss (Helen), James Purefoy (Pangbourne), Keeley Hawes (Ann); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jeremy Thomas; Embargo Films; 2015-UK/Belgium)
Does an injustice to the well-written sublime cult book.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Horror film maven Brit director Ben Wheatley (“Sightseers”/”Kill List”) and his writer wife Amy Jump adapt J.G. Ballard’s 1975 supposedly unfilmable sci-fi novel to the big screen, but fail to bring clarity to the sublime work while deliriously railing about the ills of class barriers in society. The author died in April, 2009. The filmmaker duo add a speculative part about the future not in the book. Since Ballard died before the film was made, we have no idea what he might have thought of such questionable revisionist writing. The nasty film’s punchline against capitalism ends with an excerpt of a fiery speech made by Margaret Thatcher before she became prime minister that praises capitalism to the skies and outlines her visions whic were followed when elected to the top spot. The narrative veers back and forth among three diverse characters living in different sections of an ultra-mod forty-story tower apartment complex by the Thames River on the outskirts of London in 1975. There are over 2,000 tenants, in a complex that has such conveniences as restaurants, a shopping center and a swimming pool. The idea is that the higher up you are, the more status you have. Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) is the elegant wealthy architect who designed the building and lives aloof atop it with his wife Ann (Keeley Hawes). Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a professor of physiology who recently moves onto the building’s 25th floor alone after his sister’s untimely death, lives a comfortable life. Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), an impetuous TV cameraman who lives near the ground floor with his wife and children among the block’s poorer tenants, detests the separation between the classes and confronts Royal. This sparks destruction of the structure and a class war. Other neighbors who stand out include the flirtatious but cold Charlotte (Sienna Miller) and the kind pregnant Helen (Elisabeth Moss). Laing represents the middle-class professionals and must choose sides in this bitter feud, where the building has become a battleground for a class war. As violence and canine killings prevail after a satisfactory start, the narrative loses its thread of thought and the story descends into chaos and the characters into madmen. We learn little of the characters. Instead it becomes a glossy stylish film with shock scenes. This way of filming Ballard does an injustice to the well-written sublime cult book.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”