Katie Hogan’s review published on Letterboxd :
High-Rise was definitely one of the main films that I wanted to see. Having read about the original book by J.G. Ballard, author of Crash and Empire of the Son, I was really intrigued to hear that, just a few weeks after me discovering the story, it was going to be made into a film. And here we are. Ben Wheatly, British director said in the Q&A that when he came across the book that he surprised that this wasn't a film already. The story was in good hands.
High-Rise is about the residents of a luxury high rise building, equip with everything you would need, a school, a supermarket, gym, pool and inside your own flat, all the new technology that's on offer. The building is set apart from the city and society, as the building towers over a gigantic car park where people forget where they have actually left their car. The film is set in 1975, which is when the book was original released so it gives a sense that this film is what the future was thought to be like back then.
As the building starts to loose power, arguments break out between the residents on the higher flaws and those on the lowers floors. Chaos and violence ensue. People are murdered, homes are looted, people are bargained with and everyone seems to involved in some sort of orgy. All this happens and almost no one from the 'outside' world interrupts. A policeman does drop by, comments on the mess in the lobby (its covered in blood and rubbish) then seems to disappear.
The film's protagonist is Dr Laing, played superbly by Tom Hiddleston, who is also a BFI Ambassador now, and he is the one that leads us into the building and allows us to be introduced to every aspect of the residents, the building and how it works, he also meets the architect who lives in the gigantic penthouse complete with lavish terrace. He is referred to as the neutral zone and as he wears a grey suit throughout and at one point looses it and paints his flat grey, he does indeed represent a neutral view of high-rise life.
The film is brilliant on every level. Balance between bloody violence and black comedy are perfectly executed. You don't feel connected to any of the characters in the story, apart from Laing, as he is our 'guide', and it doesn't matter, you don't think beyond what the characters are planning or doing, it is actual chaos and continues in that way. In a way, there is no resolution or end, just an indication that life continues.
I did laugh out loud quite frequently and shudder at a few moments too. I enjoyed every bit of it and I am proud that this is a very British film with a very British cast (except Mad Men alumni, Elizabeth Moss). For me, I don't think this film would have worked in another country, mostly to do with the characters that appear, but also, the director. He is known for violent films and latest violence and comedy. I have to admit I have had no desire to see his other films, but High-Rise has made me see the light.