What a nutty, screwy, wonderful, beautiful, sense-tingly film High-Rise is. This is, after all, based on the Ballard novel of the same name, so there isn’t much I can dissect that hasn’t already been dissected from the source material, I’m sure, so instead this will be a bit ramble-y and love letter-y…
First, though: I’m stumped as to some of the backlash this film has received (last year, when it was touring festivals, especially). While I am, in no sense of the word, a critic—able to critique with any substance, I mean—I do wonder if the notion of Ballard’s novel escapes some: a fable reminding us that we’re only just removed from being wild animals, the fabric of society, the invisible barriers and rules and laws we surround ourselves with, that command us, are so easily made to crumble, giving way to frenetic chaos.
I don’t know. I think that the source material, the story, speaks for itself. I don’t think there’s much else we need to gleam from it. So it being lost, what the story is trying to do, say…I don’t know.
But! I do know this was a feast for the eyes, the ears. The acting—most notably from Luke Evans—was as good as it gets, the sets were meticulously luscious, the cinematography was some of the best (outside of The Witch) I’ve seen this year, and the soundtrack, the sound mixing, was impeccable. Again, the movie wears its themes on its sleeves, there isn’t any guessing as to what it’s trying to talk about, so going into this, watching this, as it unfolds, just enjoying it through your senses, was the way to go, I think. It all came together as a work of art in every sense of that phrase—where peeling back meaning wasn’t crucial to the fable being spun—so sitting back, taking part as spectator in the visceral brutality, the Bacchanal revelry, is refreshing…necessary.
I should also note that I am a huge fan of Ben Wheatley’s work, and this is his sharpest, best-dressed film to date (although, Kill List remains my favorite of his body of work). He’s a talent on the rise, and this movie shows he can handle bigger budgets, bigger actors, and still give us something wonderfully wacky and beautiful and poignant.
Aside: Why isn’t this a straight 5 for me? I’m not sure. I loved this movie—a lot. I don’t know why something is a 4.5 or a 4 or a 5…it’s just a gut feeling. It wasn’t perfect, this film, but it nearly was. Re-watchability, maybe? I’m not sure, and, anyway, it’s nitpicking. This was a gloriously mad romp indeed.
My score: 4.5 out of 5 paint cans