High-Rise (2015) | Ben Wheatley’s brutal, bonkers blend of black humour, horror and anarchy is a winner


JG Ballard’s cult 1975 novel gets the big-screen treatment from Ben Wheatley (Kill List/Sightseers) and the result is a blackly comic vision of a dystopian Britain on the brink of social meltdown.


Neurologist Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) has just got the keys to his new pad in a luxury 40ft-storey west London tower block. But while he just wants some peace and quiet, the building and its residents have other ideas. Conceived by its rooftop-dwelling architect Anthony Royal(Jeremy Irons) as a ‘crucible for change’, the building starts to have a startling effect on its tenants.

When the veneer of civilisation begins to collapse, class war breaks out between the upper and lower floors, and Laing finds himself struggling to keep his sanity and decorum in check as the other residents, including free-spirited secretary Charlotte (Sienna Miller), arrogant TV documentary film-maker Wilder (Luke Evans), and heavily pregnant Helen (Elizabeth Moss), are swept up in the orgy of violence…

Ben Wheatley and his screenwriter wife Amy Jump have done a swell job translating Ballard’s cult novel to the big screen, but the film’s ultimate success rests on the evocative retro 1970s production design, the impressive ensemble cast, and the atmospheric electronic score.


Having set the film in 1975, we get a Brutalist tower block much like London’s Barbican Estate (said to be one of Ballard’s inspirations) and one which echoes the bleak urban spaces used in futuristic 1970s thrillers like Rollerball and Soylent Green.

The period furnishings, fashions and grooming styles, and the inclusion of Portishead crooning to Abba’s SOS (which came out the same year), lend the grey surroundings some colourful respite, while Clint Mansell’s electronic score reverberates throughout the concrete corridors like sublimal aural wallpaper that’s a portent of the destructive things to come.

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Stark, stylishly and boldly bonkers brilliant, its a full-on assault of the senses that not only does justice to the Ballardian themes of the novel, it also evokes the cinema of Lindsay Anderson, particularly his 1982 state-of-the nation satire Britannia Hospital, and David Cronenberg, who also turned Ballard’s Crash into a controversial adaptation in 1996.

High-Rise is out on digital download from 11 July from StudioCanal, followed by its Blu-ray and DVD release on 18 July.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on July 11, 2016, in British Film, Must See, Must-See, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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