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High-Rise Film Review

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High-Rise is the gripping, gruesome and immersive film that immediately plunges you into the garish, decadent and downright bizarre world of the High Rise tower where nothing is as it seems.

High-Rise, directed by Ben Wheatley, is the critically acclaimed science fiction thriller that follows Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager), a young doctor who moves into the twenty-fifth floor of a luxury tower block. Laing is quickly thrown into a world of social injustice and inequality where the poorest residents are forced to strike back against the hierarchical system. We see Laing navigate his way through a community with the highest and lowest members of society, where the rich make their way to the top of the tower and live in luxury and opulence, while the poor barely get by on the lowest floors.

The screenplay is a slight more modern adaptation of the 1975 novel by J.G. Ballard, but all the social commentary is still very relevant today. The whole film is a fascinating study of society by exposing issues of hierarchy, democracy and communism through the microcosm that is the tower. Each scene is laden with hidden meanings and metaphors that allude to several issues, mainly the problem of social hierarchy but also corruption and the unjust gap between the rich and poor. This makes it an entertaining film as well as a challenging and brutal reminder that forces you to confront your understanding of each issue highlighted.

And beneath all the glitz and glamour of the high society living in the top storeys, is the darker and more brutal storylines that feature suicide, violence, death and a few extremely gory clips of an autopsy. The anger and violence quickly spirals out of control until it becomes full-scale beatings, attacks and murders as the residents on the lowest floors strike back with the help of a documentary maker floor who is determined to expose the injustice.

The standout performances by Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons and Elisabeth Moss show all the on-screen chemistry and convincing portrayals you would expect from such a star-studded cast. Each A-List celebrity accurately represents each of the different classes within the caste system, which automatically draws attention to the differences in their positions within the tower block and therefore society.

While the topics are ugly, the film itself is a work of art. The already surreal world is made more bizarre with almost psychedelic scenes of colour juxtaposed with the bland monotony of the second floor. The use of split-screens to highlight the disparity is a recurring motif that drives the social issues to the forefront by, for example, weaving a bleak suicide in with a wild party to show both sides of the coin.

The ambitious film is a hybrid between Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby with heavy undertones of Kafka’s Metamorphosis thrown in for good measure to make for a brilliant but brutal film that isn’t for the faint of heart.

3.5/5 stars

Elinore Court lives at Liberty House in London, she is studying a masters degree in Magazine Journalism at City University.

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