DIFF Review: High-Rise

Score: A-

Director: Ben Wheatley

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rated: R

High-Rise is the most challenging, hilarious and disturbing movie I’ve seen at the Dallas International Film Festival, and so far this year. You’ll either be completely on-board with it or you’ll loathe it entirely.

I’m in the former camp. This is a pitch-black comedy with a perfectly built – if completely messed up – world that’s a funhouse mirror of ours. That’s surprising considering how much feels unchanged from the 1973 source novel. Oppression and rebellion are universal, it seems.

Tom Hiddleston is terrific as usual as Dr. Robert Laing, one of the many tenants of a luxury high-rise that has basically anything you could want – gym, market, pool, spa. But frequent power outages and class tensions undo the beautiful facade that Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) has built.

If you have a weak stomach for violence, you’ll be thoroughly repulsed by how the tenants descend into chaos and madness. There’s a lot of bloodshed, but the worst horrors often happen off-screen, which is somehow more unsettling. The top-floor residents, all obscenely wealthy, pit the lower floors against one another once the food runs out and help won’t come. Then, they hunt them for sport or other entertainment. The real horror is that no one leaves. They’re trapped in a prison of their own making.

It’s not hard to see what the subtext is here. High-Rise has no room for subtlety. But it has plenty of style and substance, even if that substance is horrifying. It’s a sick joke that reveals a deeper truth.

To reveal much more would give away High-Rise’s many twists and turns. But its cinematography is excellent, its script is highly quotable (“As a child, I was always covered in something: mud, jam, failure.”) and its cast – which also includes Sienna Miller as a single mother and Luke Evans as a crusader prone to outbursts of violence – is uniformly excellent.

You’re in for a wild ride with High-Rise, and you won’t forget it afterwards, for better or worse.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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