Like A Field in England before it, High-Rise is mad film, both in its aggressive approach towards storytelling and the insanity engrained within it. Based on a novel from the sci-fi crazy master-mind J.G. Ballard, I can assure you High-Rise is unlike any film you’ve seen. People will undoubtedly compare it to Snowpiercer in its approach towards the analysis of a contained social hierarchy, but High-Rise goes beyond that and takes the approach of experimentation over revolution. Both films are about a broken social structure, but where Snowpiercer is about breaking the structure, High-Rise is about how the structure is broken in its construction.
The idea of implanting a social class within a high-rise does seem like something lousy and easy to do, but it seems that way because its the perfect place to depict such a story. If this film were like any other film that depicts a revolution within social classes it would undoubtedly be boring as hell, but that’s where Ben Wheatley, J. G. Ballard’s source material, and Gold & Park’s brilliant casting comes into play.
After the insane trio of films he made before releasing High-Rise, we’ve all come to the realization Ben Wheatley isn’t just a crazy filmmaker, but that he is crazy and that’s great. Over the course of history, we’ve also come to realize only true masters of cinema like Cronenberg and Spielberg have been able to adapt Ballard’s brilliance. What allows Wheatley to adapt High-Rise so well onto the screen is his extremely direct approach to insanity. When it comes to telling a story considered somewhat risqué, Wheatley will tackle that story with a ferociousness most filmmakers lack. This is a man that was able to make a film in black & white about 17th century Englishmen tripping balls in a field into something that was equally maddening, scary, and fun. He doesn’t necessarily take the same approach with High-Rise, but there reaches a point towards the middle of the film where we’re subjected to a crazy montage to show the passing of time and after that the film is never the same, it goes balls to the walls crazy and it works.
The reason I denote Nina Gold and Theo Park’s job casting this film is because they did an absolutely phenomenal job assembling the people that live on the different stories of the high-rise. A few weeks ago I just saw Luke Evans embody the pinnacle of a masculine stereotype in Beauty and the Beast, but thanks to Park and Gold, in High-Rise we’re presented to an entirely different side of him that’s both as scary as it awesome. Then there’s Tom Hiddleston who walks a fine line between too smart for his own good and oblivious. He plays someone extremely clever that like everyone in the building is also going crazy but because of his background as some sort of medical student interested in the inner-workings of the brain seems to be unconsciously ahead of the game and is able to adapt to the volatile changes that occur as the people of the high-rise revolt and slowly revert to their Freudian instincts. There’s also a couple of mothers played by the likes of Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss that represent different women from varied social classes, meaning Hiddleston’s relationship to each one draws him to one-side of the revolution or another and as the whole revolution unfolds they seem to mark a sort-of inner conflict within Hiddleston’s Laing. The cast is great all-around, perfectly embodying the craziness of Ballard’s text and Wheatley’s direction.
Even though it is based on pre-existing source material, High-Rise feels utterly original. It’s aggressive form of story-telling makes a statement on its own and the insane performances that accompany it form a scary symphony that you just can’t help but listen to. High-Rise is an utterly unique experience to say the least, it’s maddening but beautifully crafted, much like the high-rise itself.