High-Rise is classed as one of those ‘unfilmable novels’, although I don’t read books, probably having been put off early in life by being given Duncton Wood to read while I was in hospital. It had 736 pages and didn’t grasp me at all. At school, we were forced to read George Orwell’s 1984. I did it, but beyond that, I just couldn’t see the point of sitting there looking at a page when I could be watching it all play out in front of me on the screen.
The film takes place in a late ’70s-set future, just as the decade of bad taste design had really begun to set in. As it’s described in the film, they’re “living in a future that had already taken place.” Actually, that makes is sound even more confusing.
Despite being modern for the time, the place feels half-finished, especialy with the power regularly cutting out and the lift breaking down not long in but I did like the mirrored effect within the lifts, reflecting the cast infinitely, but not showing the camera. I know that’s not new, and I saw a similar effect in the second season of Fargo, but it was still impressive. In addition, the building is new but still looks quite battered on the outside, such is the concrete having weathered. In fact, the concrete looks like Stockport’s crappy main car park (some inside shots here).
There’s a class system within the block, such is how the apartments have been designated within – the lower class towards the bottom with the upper class higher up, which made me think of Titanic, and that wasn’t the only comparison, as you’ll discover.
I hate living and having to work in ’70s architecture, but I love seeing it on the big screen. What starts off as a utopia soon turns into an incalculable nightmare, and it’s weird as hell but never anything other than engaging. Maybe this is why Ben Wheatley loved Zardoz so much (see his appreciation of the film on the Blu-ray extras), because that film-within-a-community was similarly bat-shit mental, making not a lot of sense but you couldn’t take your eyes of it, and now he’s done the same with High-Rise. And while it doesn’t always work, Wheatley’s latest is another must-see, following Kill List, Sightseers and A Field In England.
In addition, it feels like you could remake The Prisoner with Tom Hiddleston in this role, given how weird the whole thing is, but I continue to hope that it will not be long before he’s announced as the next James Bond.
High-Rise also features a large ensemble cast and every one of this is on-point. Hiddleston, as newcomer to the building, is always engaging, Jeremy Irons smarms away nicely, and Dan Skinner is turning out to be a one to watch. After his Angelos character completely turning me away when I first saw him, he later won me over with House Of Fools, The Kennedys, and I can’t wait to see the critically-acclaimed Notes On Blindness.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical ratio and is in 1080p high definition, the picture is stunning, bringing the building design beautifully to life on my 50″ plasma… when you can see the screen because, as it’s the ’70s, everyone smokes.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and there’s some very enjoyable split-surround effects at the decadent party, early on.
The extras are as follows:
- Cast Interviews: Not my favourite type of style, here, as they’re Q&As where the Q is a silent caption, prior to the actor giving their answer – I prefer a normal ‘interviewer onscreen’ approach. That said, there’s tons of them here, so I should stop moaning, in this case 🙂
For the cast, there’s Tom Hiddleston (22:22), Sienna Miller (6:15), Sienna Guillory (11:14), Luke Evans (17:43), Keeley Hawes (12:31), Jeremy Irons (13:01), James Purefoy (10:22), Elisabeth Moss (8:36) and Dan Renton Skinner (8:49)… and similar number of cast members. Sadly, nothing from Ben Wheatley or Amy Jump, even though Mr Wheatley pops up in the next piece.
- Bringing Ballard to the big screen (3:47): A short puff-piece that’s been put together from the interviews as well as clips from the film.
- Audio commentary: with director Ben Wheatley, Tom Hiddleston and producer Jeremy Thomas.
The menu features a kaleidoscopic effect (explained in the film), there are subtitles in English and a bog-standard 12 chapters. I prefer one every 5 minutes, which would come to approx 24. There are some trailers before the main menu, but there really shouldn’t be.
Running time: 119 minutes
Released: July 18th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Ben Wheatley
Producer: Jeremy Thomas
Screenplay: Amy Jump (based on the novel by JG Ballard)
Music: Clint Mansell
Robert Laing: Tom Hiddleston
Anthony Royal: Jeremy Irons
Charlotte: Sienna Miller
Richard Wilder: Luke Evans
Helen: Elisabeth Moss
Pangbourne: James Purefoy
Ann: Keeley Hawes
Cosgrove: Peter Ferdinando
Jane: Sienna Guillory
Steele: Reece Shearsmith
Talbot: Enzo Cilenti
Munrow: Augustus Prew
Simmons: Dan Skinner
Fay: Stacy Martin
Robert the Caretaker: Tony Way
Laura: Leila Mimmack
Mercer: Bill Paterson
Toby: Louis Suc
PC White: Neil Maskell
Lucy: Alexandra Weaver
Jean: Julia Deakin
Mrs Munrow: Maggie Cronin
Mr Munrow: Patrick FitzSymons
Gym Instructor: Patrick Buchanan
Queue Person: Graham Duff
High-Rise (voice): Sara Dee
Radio (voice): Fenella Woolgar
Digby the Dog: Kai
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.