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High-Rise - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: C+
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C-

High-Rise looks like a movie tailor-made for me. I have an inexplicable, lifelong love of skyscrapers. I tend to like films with stylistic flourishes. I have no complaints about seeing Tom Hiddleston naked.

Too bad this movie goes completely off the rails. Director Ben Wheatley presents it as a high-rise microcosm of class warfare, as Dr. Robert Laing (Hiddleston) moves in and is quickly greeted with neighbors offering condescending suggestions on "the way things work around here." The building is 40 floors tall but he lives on the 25th, so I guess he's decidedly middle class.

A neighbor one floor above catches him sunbathing on his balcony. She calls him "an excellent specimen" and you're hard pressed to argue. These early scenes are intriguing, as we are introduced to the characters and are treated to wonderfully framed shots of both the tower's exterior and interiors. Eventually we discover this neighbor's connection to the man constantly referred to as "The Architect" (Jeremy Irons), who lives at the top with his bizarrely extravagant wife, but by then the story has become so convoluted our heads are spinning.

There are power outages among the lower floors, where the less affluent people live. This whole concept seems odd and a rather dated idea; no building this luxuriously designed would have poor people living in it regardless of floor height. This film is based on a novel of the same name that was published in 1975, and making that the apparent time setting here -- the clothes, the cars, the technology -- is a curious choice. The conceptual problem remains regardless of decade.

One of the lower class residents is a very pregnant mother of two other children played by a very welcome Elisabeth Moss. But she, like Hiddleston and Irons and all the others, just make the most of the work they're given. Clearly there was talent in the making of this movie, but once Dr. Laing is tasked with lobotomizing a troublesome resident, I was thinking whoever edited this movie should be lobotomized. Or maybe they already were. There are two editor credits, one of them the director. So we should still just blame him for this mess.

Chaos reigns between the residents of this tower, but getting to that point has no natural trajectory in this story. Tensions are building slightly, and then seemingly out of nowhere, the descent into madness appears via thoroughly confusing montage. This was where High-Rise lost me. After that, through the rest of the movie, more than once I found myself thinking, What the hell? Things just make less and less sense as time goes on, until you're literally watching a bunch of women stab a man to death through the lens of a kaleidoscope.

There are moments of potential, mind you. The cinematography in particular is the only thing that ever makes things truly interesting. A shot of a man falling from a higher floor and crashing into a parked car below is oddly beautiful. But once you get past surface glean here, the rest of it rings hollow.

I only say it for lack of a better phrase when I say this movie aims to be high-minded. It utterly fails and succeeds only in being incomprehensible.

Tom Hiddleston might just get a HIGH-RISE out of you.

Overall: C+
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