Just because a film has a famous face attached does not mean it will be worth a watch. That is the case with “High Rise”, Tom Hiddleston’s newest project adapted from J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name. Unless the viewer is there simply to admire the costuming, they will be disappointed that they wasted two hours of their life sitting through this movie.
The script and direction truly make this movie unappealing. The theatrical trailer promises a slight bit of madness, but nothing compared to what its full-length counterpart provides. The script is fragmented, showing you just obscure encounters in the high rise building. This is truly the downfall of the piece, as this choice makes sure that the story cannot build up. You can understand that people are unhappy in their living situation, in a building where the power is frequently out and the higher the floor someone lives on, the higher their social standing. That makes sense. However, the growing anger and need for violence does not build. You simply see people be displeased multiple times before it escalates into an unbelievable amount of chaos. Unbelievable, in this case, may be an understatement. Characters kill and eat pets for no reason, have wild orgies while onlookers seem unfazed, and beat each other within an inch of life without there being an sort of end to the chaos. Where does it stem from though? Watching scenes that do not flow as one coherent thought, the onset of this pandemonium feels like it is just for shock and awe value. It also makes sure that you do not attach to any of the characters, so when another horrific thing happens to them not even the viewer cares.
In addition to the terrible storytelling, the way the film is shot also takes you out of the story. Multiple scenes, starting with one of sexual nature near the beginning, are just flashes of what is going on. It is like the cameraman wanted to make an art film when the script wasn’t calling for one. You feel briefly intoxicated as you struggle to figure out what the camera is trying to show you. Then, once you figure it out, you wish you had just stayed confused.
The one silver lining in this film is the costuming and sets. Everyone loves a good period piece, even if it is never stated exactly which period you are in. The costumes are beautiful and the sets keep you at least mildly interested in continuing to look at the film in front of you. Set dressing also plays a unique role in the film, as you can tell someone’s class by what kind of things lay about their apartment. There is a market inside of the high rise, filled with generic looking products. It is fun to look at the simple cereal labels that were created and try to understand why the director chose to create this packaging. It is hard to understand what this is conveying, but interesting to look at when you are not invested in the people who are buying these items.
“High Rise” leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It is a disjointed look at society that refuses to let you get too close to any of its characters. It is unnecessarily grotesque and is a film you wish you could soon forget.