High-Rise movie poster
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High-Rise
High-Rise movie poster

High-Rise Movie Review

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD (Buy on Amazon)

Alluring yet only ever mildly entertaining, High-Rise takes a satirical look at class warfare and the disturbing and absurd things that happen in a building literally divided by classes—with the richest people on the top floors, the poorer down below. The movie’s smart screenplay itself will appeal to a certain class—critics, cinephiles and others in search of a different breed of movie—while most will shrug and move on, pushing it from their memory forever.

Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Thor), Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss star in this strange but arguably not strange enough movie that the studio markets as a thriller—even though it really isn’t. A drama with societal metaphor and bursts of violence that apparently allows it be a “thriller,” High-Rise features some okay performances, but one of its glaring weaknesses is its ill-defined characters. Hiddleston is arguably the lead, but his character is utterly forgettable. Miller and Moss are just there, even though you can tell their characters had something to offer if they were given proper depth. Evans delivers the best performance of the bunch, but he too is constrained by a character whose temperament and motivations are hard to understand.

Put another way, none of the characters are even remotely likeable or even interesting—so why should I care about what happens to any of them?

Of course, director Ben Wheatley and screenwriter Amy Jump, adapting the novel by J.G. Ballard, didn’t set out to make a character drama: the purpose of the film is to demonstrate class warfare in an isolated, dystopian building. Character depth and even acting quality is not as important as the actions the characters take or the events that happen.

Even still, High-Rise barely works.

The movie is interesting at times, even entertaining, and Wheatley’s vision has some notable moments. There are stretches, especially early on, where the slight weirdness of everything that is happening works to the film’s advantage—because you don’t know what direction the movie is going to take, or even what it is about. But once you figure those elements out, its mysterious aura dissipates, leaving you with a two-hour “thriller” that feels too long and struggles to make a point.

High-Rise is a movie with positives and negatives, and whether it’s worth it or not is in the eye of the beholder (as with all things). But it’s a movie that most will find a bit of a chore, neither good nor bad but just a little tedious, an experiment that wants to be something but in the end is merely shrug-worthy.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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