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Tribeca 2016: High-Rise Review

It’s good to go into movies as a blind mind. So when I walked into High-Rise at the Tribeca Film Festival, all I knew was that this was based on a popular novel that was considered unable to be filmed and was made into a film that had to do with Tom Hiddleston and a building. I should’ve done more research or I should’ve been given a disclaimer about what I was getting myself into, because High-Rise is undoubtedly the weirdest films I’ve seen in a very long time. When a movie opens with Tom Hiddleston eating the leg of a dog, let alone the Magnet Releasing logo, you know you’re in for a very messed up ride.

Dr. Robert Laing, the newest resident of a luxurious apartment in a high-tech concrete skyscraper whose lofty location places him amongst the upper class. Laing quickly settles into high society life and meets the building's eccentric tenants: Charlotte (Miller), his upstairs neighbor and bohemian single mother; Wilder, a charismatic documentarian who lives with his pregnant wife Helen; and Mr. Royal , the enigmatic architect who designed the building. Life seems like paradise to the solitude-seeking Laing. But as power outages become more frequent and building flaws emerge, particularly on the lower floors, the regimented social strata begins to crumble and the building becomes a battlefield in a literal class war.

For the first 30 minutes, we get a really good set up of Tom Hiddleston’s character and the new building he moved into. We see the lives of his neighbors and the various different people that live in his building. Though they all may be pompous and unlikable [especially Luke Evans who goes complete asshole in this film]. Their money reflects the ways of their behavior and the movie does a great way showing it. The way they explain the system of the building is convincing so when the power does go out, the film naturally loses it’s mind.

At first you get a sense of Great Gatsby with the social feud between the high and lower class then it turns into Lord of the Flies in the second act. It isn’t until the second act of the film where the entire film gets crazy. There are endless scenes of chaos in the foreground and background including violence, drugs, and sex while Hiddleston is just in the absenter immune to everything going on around him. If we were to compare this to Lord of the Flies and Great Gatsby then his character would be Ralph/Nick Carraway, Jeremy Irons is Piggy/Gatsby, and Luke Evans is Jack/ Tom Buchanan.

Director Ben Wheatley and his cinematographer Laurie Rose does a great job showing magnificent shots of the lives of the people in the building. Some shots will absolutely leave you in awe, due to grim lighting. and stylistic slow motion that isn’t overdone and over the top.

With a film as crazy and insane as this, you would think it would be cohesive in a way. Though it is convincing how they explain the social system in the building but when the chaos ensures the reason why the people stay in the building is very unconvincing. It is not like the people are in a building trapped on an island. Its as if the people were that inept with the world they rather hide from it. The film is paced well but when the extended sequences of parties and orgies come in by the second act, you’re all tired out. The film panders on by trying to shock you than to be cohesive to the story. So by the time it gets to the third act you’re bored wishing it’ll wrap itself up. And when it does, it tries to leave you out in a thought provoking manner, but the absurdity that you witnessed all the way through doesn’t really help it’s case. You don’t really get any connections of these characters for they’re all in a way over the top cartoonish with the exception of Hiddleston and Elizabeth Moss. If you like films that just loses its mind and relies on shock value then that’s cool, but with a film that’s supposed to have a deep subliminal message High-Rise doesn’t really do the case.

Stylistic in direction and cinematography but absurd in accounts of storytelling, High-Rise is a messed up film that relies more on the graphic of sex and violence than a convincing story and social statements that it constantly implies.

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