Sam B.’s review published on Letterboxd:
Okay so I feel like how much I love HIGH-RISE is akin to how much people love SNOWPIERCER, and that’s coming from someone who think the latter film is pretty fucking terrific.
There’s that theory that all films are political, but holy shit, if you end your movie with a Margaret Thatcher speech and some Brit-punk, you sure as hell better believe it on the most literal sense. But I think the theory is stronger when it’s looked at on a deeper, more fundamental level; Culture is everything. Politics and economics are culture. Art irrevocably mirrors political and economic idealogies, no matter what the story is about. And no film exemplifies this more than High-Rise, because High-Rise is massive, high-strung, balls-out-brilliant parable not just for capitalism, but for the way culture is formed.
The story takes a sprawling, spider-web narrative and splices it together effortlessly into a single cohesive emotional journey, a visceral descent into a darkly humorous vision of a hell-scape. The rules of the world aren’t ever explicitly established, so we can never be seduced by the propaganda of exposition (Inception this is not). This is the world. It’s complex and nuanced and everything is there, within the frame, waiting to be dissected, but it’s not explained. This movie is too smart for that shit. Unlike 10 CloverField Lane, the easter eggs here add to the environment, the story, the themes. The end goal of the clue hunt here is a greater understanding of the work of art itself. Fucking genius.
The characters are just…agh Tom Hiddleston’s performance is incredible. He’s the perfect audience surrogate because he is engineered to survive in the film’s universe almost passively, just like the audience. The story structure is fascinating because it does not take the titular locale’s decline as anything but totally natural and inevitable. The film’s montages, unique in their stylings and pitch-perfect tonal shifts, also brush aside traditional plot points for distinctive, stunning, evocative imagery that perfectly captures how the building is morphing, changing. There’s so much here, so many dynamics perfectly outlined yet only hinted at in the slightest of details, it’s a story told through an inherently limited perspective, because that’s what all stories about cultures must be; no one person’s story is just there own, nor is it the entirety of their own; Everyone has thousands of stories and every story has thousands of people.
What Ben Wheatley’s doing here isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it’s masterful; he knows how to tell a story. Not just mechanisms with which to tell a story, but it’s as if he’s digested thousands of years of storytelling and different formulas and commonplace rhythms and beats and torn it to shreds, using the scraps to create an entirely new beast, unfamiliar and yet still, at the core, exactly what a great story should be. The film could fit into as many different genres as the high-rise has levels, and there are countless scenes so fucking good I wish they would go on forever (and yet, part of the bizarro charm and strokes of ingenuity is that oftentimes scenes feel about half as long as in a normal movie, as if we’re speeding by, which carries momentum and shrinks storytelling completely out of the audience’s comfort zone and into a state of ecstacy). It’s endlessly imaginative ride that I’ll need to rematch to properly dissect. anyway, Ben Wheatley has for a while now been a masterful, great, exciting, new, contemporary filmmaker, one of the best of his generation. But this might just be his first stone-cold, live on for eons masterpiece. In short, High-Rise is everything you could ever want from a movie in 2016. It’s timely and timeless, entertaining and thoought-provoking, boundary-pushing and thoroughly educated, emotionally engaging and utterly spectacular. I’m just…I’m buzzed on this movie.
Cinema is the art form that renders every culture’s aesthetic presentation assimilated onto the same plane. In HIGH-RISE, culture is everything and nothing. The trajectory of politics and economics are irreversibly fucked. But the decadence, the moment of partying, will be differenet, and notable, and essential, and beautiful, and fucked-up, and so fucking funny, and so fucking fun.