Directed by Ben Wheatley
Released May 13, 2016
The daily routines of a person’s life take them to many different places. Necessary errands like buying groceries, filling up gas, and going to the doctor facilitate human contact with those from other walks of like. Those who reside in the same building share certain traits but can also look nothing alike, and when the only thing they know is what immediately surrounds them, the world can begin to come crashing down, as it does in a magnificent way for the residents of a luxurious high-rise in this furious depiction of social chaos at its most outrageous.
Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a man who says little and observes plenty, rarely contributing to the conversations around him and subsisting on not being noticed. His work involves the rather brutal examination of dead bodies, something that makes students queasy but doesn’t faze him at all. His move to the high-rise introduces him to a self-sufficient system in which he can even shop in the massive supermarket on the fifteen floor, leaving work as his only reason to leave the building. Robert watches as those around him begin to go to war – the rich on the top floors eager to quash the rebellious poor on the bottom floors – and everything devolves completely out of control.
Set in London in the 1970s, “High-Rise” boasts dazzling costumes and interior visuals. Those contrast greatly with the desolate nothingness of the outside world, devoid of much color with the high-rise looming alone above a giant parking lot and with little in the sky around it. Robert is seen at work and in the car, but otherwise, the high-rise is everything. The lavishness of what the high-rise provides despite the great disparity of wealth that separates its playboy intellectuals and working-class families is incredible, and the potential for destruction is immeasurable, yet the characters give it their all as they delight in ripping each other to pieces.
Hiddleston, best known to American audiences for playing Loki in the Marvel universe movies, has the right sedated aura to make Robert an almost nonexistent player in his own story, immune to the allure of the chaos and therefore able to best take it in as it rages around him. Standouts from the supporting cast include Jeremy Irons as the architect of the building, James Purefoy as a conniving upper-floor resident, Luke Evans as a committed liberal documentarian, and Elisabeth Moss as his neglected pregnant wife. The film’s visual style is an extraordinary asset, contributing just as much to its storytelling as its characters. This is an unsettling and wild journey, one that shows the true depths to which humanity can sink when given the opportunity.