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.