Surrealism is by far one of the most interesting film genres, if not the most accessible or enjoyable. It aims to shock and confuse, to create an eventful experience that usually makes zero sense. Problem is, as well crafted as they may be, it’s hard to appeal to most audiences in this case, as most surrealist films alienate those who watch. Well, it’s still a wild ride, but High Rise is one of the most accessible surrealist films in recent years.
Now, it’s accessibility comes from not being strictly surreal; the narrative isn’t linear, but there’s definitely one there. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a physiology doctor who moves into a high rise apartment complex, where the rich live at the top and the poor live at the bottom. With Laing’s arrival, the barriers start to get broken, and before long, chaos ensues. High Rise is enthralling for it’s first two acts; it’s so wonderfully weird and random.
A lot of the time, it’s hard to tell what’s going on, but that almost doesn’t matter. In fact, that actually helps. The way it delves deep into these inexplicable oddities yet maintains an overarching message of class war is deliriously entertaining to watch, and that’s in large part due to the cast. Tom Hiddleston is as charming as ever, offering one of the best acts of his career yet. Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons and Elisabeth Moss all do a fine job of their characters, but the real show stealer is by far Luke Evans as documentary filmmaker Richard Wilder. Evans completely loses himself in the role. There isn’t a single shade of the real man left, he is 100% the character. Wilder is rambunctious, angry and an absolute delight to watch. Evans deserves as many awards as he can get for what is definitely the finest performance he’s ever given.
Adding to the unbelievable atmosphere is the stunning use of camera; Whatever the occassion, Ben Wheatley knows exactly what he’s doing to keep his films engaging and interesting visually, and High Rise is truly a sight to behold. The cinematography is beyond stunning, the colours vibrant, the editing quick when it needs to be and slow when it doesn’t, and a soundtrack that is to die for. It is by far one of the most exceptionally crafted films of the year, and further proof that Wheatley is one of the best directors working.
Where this film falls apart is in it’s third act; the first two are chaotic and random, and it’s a rather nice serving to eat up fast. However, it gets very tired after a while. Without spoiling it, the film finds itself in a certain state towards the end, and that state just isn’t anywhere near as interesting as it was before. It does frankly get quite boring, though had the film been a tad shorter, it might not have felt this way.
Still, it’s not enough to tarnish what is otherwise an enthralling big ball of madness. High Rise is tantalizingly weird, expertly performed, and phenomenally crafted. It’s an often confusing but deliriously fun experience that holds up as one of the best films of the year so far.
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