In High Rise, Tom Hiddleston is Robert Laing, a new resident on the 27th floor of a tower block. Laing is welcomed by his fellow residents, including bohemian socialite Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller), the wannabe documentarian Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) and his pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss).
Laing seems superior to everyone in the building with his manners and accent. We might even think that he should be living at the top of the building where the super-rich architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) is sharing the penthouse with his aristocratic wife (Keeley Hawes).
In this tower, the well-off are in the lower floors (flight attendants in a dance montage), the upper-middle class (including Laing and his orthodontist neighbour) are in the middle and the penthouse (top-of-the-food-chain) is for the architect.
In the beginning, life for the residents seems organized and protected. It takes place in a cold and isolated building until the microcosm of the society featured in the tower collapses.
As a detached and distant observer, Laing is portrayed as the most dangerous type of man as he sees the world falling apart and does nothing about it but learn to adapt. One bad fruit spoils the bunch; a rotten peach ruins the whole stock. This metaphor shot across the supermarket is perfect. Wheatley created a microcosm that transforms into a showcase for the tension and anarchy in the building: loud parties, orgies, violent attacks, and open war between different floors.
Wilder is portrayed as the leader of this unspoken revolution just like the Che Guevara poster on his wall. On the top floor, Royal and his friends are totally disconnected from the reality of the building and its turmoil.
Visually speaking, a lot of effects and metaphors are beautifully shot. Let’s look for example at the kaleidoscope looking into this fragmented reality and its multiple facets. Also the exquisite slow motion during the dramatic suicide leap from a balcony, the close-up of skin being peeled from a human skull. The musical highlight moment was the raw remake of ABBA’s hit SOS by Portishead.
My concern was that I couldn’t feel any attachment or empathy with the characters. They are detached and don’t seem very authentic – they are lacking in realism.
Overall, the movie was a little bit too long and the pace uneven. But aesthetically speaking, it was fun to watch. The chaos could have led to a revolution that could have changed this whole system and bring it to a new state, which happened in a way, but a very relative peaceful new state.
High Rise it screened during the Festival du nouveau cinéma.