Hid­dle­stone rises to the oc­ca­sion

A tale of class war, High Rise will ir­ri­tate as many peo­ple as it en­ter­tains says DA­MON SMITH

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

JG Bal­lard’s chill­ing 1975 novel makes an awk­ward, yet stylis­ti­cally sump­tu­ous, tran­si­tion to the big screen in the hands of Es­sex-born di­rec­tor Ben Wheat­ley.

Set al­most en­tirely within a 40-storey mono­lith bru­tally forged in con­crete and steel, High-Rise charts the dis­in­te­gra­tion of so­ci­ety by pit­ting the lower, middle and up­per classes against each other on their re­spec­tive floors of the build­ing.

Screen­writer Amy Jump re­tains the orig­i­nal set­ting, pro­vid­ing pro­duc­tion de­signer Mark Tildes­ley with a blank can­vas for cool and im­mac­u­late retro aes­thet­ics that sug­gest a brave new world tee­ter­ing on the brink of an­ar­chy.

Ex­plo­sions of vi­o­lence spat­ter the lens as moral­ity is cast aside, in­clud­ing one star­tling se­quence of a man com­mit­ting sui­cide by fling­ing him­self off the build­ing.

Cos­tumes also per­fectly evoke the swing­ing era, ac­com­pa­nied by a sound­track com­posed by Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Re­quiem For A Dream) that teases out notes of sim­mer­ing dis­cord.

A tone of jet black hu­mour is in­jected in the open­ing frames as Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hid­dle­ston) sits on the bal­cony of his flat, roast­ing the re­mains of a dog on a spit.

Man’s best friend has be­come siz­zling sus­te­nance in a once pris­tine idyll that has de­gen­er­ated into a bat­tle­ground across the class di­vide.

The nar­ra­tive rewinds three months to Robert’s ar­rival on the 25th floor.

He sun­bathes naked and catches the eye of sin­gle mother Char­lotte Melville (Si­enna Miller), who lives up­stairs with her pre­co­cious son, Toby (Louis Suc).

She in­tro­duces Robert to some of the other res­i­dents, in­clud­ing of­fi­cious busy­body Nathan (Reece Shear­smith) and doc­u­men­tary film-maker Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), who ne­glects his heav­ily preg­nant wife He­len (Elis­a­beth Moss) to chase other women.

The medic is granted a pri­vate au­di­ence with the build­ing’s ar­chi­tect, An­thony Royal (Jeremy Irons), who lives in the pen­t­house with his emo­tion­ally brit­tle wife, Ann (Kee­ley Hawes).

“I con­ceived this build­ing as a cru­cible for change,” Royal in­forms Robert, who takes ad­van­tage of the ameni­ties in­clud­ing a fully stocked su­per­mar­ket on floor 15 and a swim­ming pool on floor 30.

Power out­ages, which af­fect the lower floors, stoke re­sent­ment, even­tu­ally spark­ing civil war which claims the life of one beloved pet and a num­ber of the res­i­dents.

High-Rise rev­els in the de­bauch­ery of the era, with or­gias­tic scenes of group sex and con­sumer greed.

Hid­dle­ston is an en­gag­ing lead char­ac­ter, pan­der­ing to his fans with nu­dity and a se­quence that sees him danc­ing with a gag­gle of uni­form air hostesses in lus­trous slow-mo­tion.

As a co­her­ent nar­ra­tive that sus­tains in­ter­est for two hours, Wheat­ley’s film has some struc­tural weak­nesses and his im­pec­ca­bly tailored vi­sion will in­fu­ri­ate and be­muse as many peo­ple as it in­tox­i­cates.

I’m firmly in the for­mer camp, still scratch­ing my head.

n MEAN AND MOODY: Tom Hid­dle­stone’s per­for­mance is sure to de­light his fans

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