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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

High-Rise (2016)


Happens at Marriott Inns all the time.

Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Middleston) moves into a towering London skyscraper where most of the rich and powerful upper-class people live on the tippy-top, and the lower-class, mostly poorer people live on the bottom. Laing for himself is somewhere in the middle of everything and soon finds himself accepted by both sides of the spectrum; he enjoys the lavish and exquisite parties that the upper-class has, but he also enjoys having a pretty wacky and wild time with the lower-class ones as well. Mostly though, he’s just trying to play it safe, live a simple life, make some friends, and not get dragged-up in anything too complicated or whatever. However, that all changes when the two classes begin to clash over, well, everything. Power starts going out, supermarkets start running dry, and somehow, more and more people are fighting. Even though the police are around, they don’t seem too interested to get involved, which means that it’s mostly all up to the tenants to solve these issues. This, as expected, leads to some disastrous and downright deadly results.

If he's shocked, something's got to be really screwed up there.

If he’s shocked, something’s got to be really screwed up there.

There’s a good half-hour or so where I was totally on-board with High-Rise and everything that Ben Wheatley seemed to be doing. The tone is off in that we get a sense of this where we are, but we don’t know what to make of anything just yet; we know that something bad is going to happen, but how, why and when? These are questions brought up by Wheatley who seems to, at times, be feeding us a pitch-dark comedy that doesn’t want to clue us in yet of just what its intentions are, or where exactly it’s going to go.

And yes, in a way, I ate all that up. The movie not only looks great, but there was something about its world-building that kept me interested, even if it did seem like Wheatley was plodding his way along something of a plot. Wheatley seems less interested in plots such as these, and more interested in just figuring out more about these characters and the world that they’re surrounded by – while some of it seems real, for the most part, it isn’t. This is a scarily idealized world that we’re not necessarily to be happy about, but still want to see stuff happen in and that’s how I felt watching High-Rise.

And then, that all changed.

For one, Wheatley loses all sorts of focus with this and never seems to know what he wants to do, or say with this material, except just do the same thing, over and over again. Without saying too much, a lot of terrible stuff happens to a lot of people in here and while I’m all for it, there came a point where I was wondering if it was going to mean anything for any reason. Wheatley has shown in his past few movies that he doesn’t mind killing people in ugly, heinous ways because it either, A) looks cool, or B) is cool, which is a-okay with me, but there has to be some sort of reason, or at the very least, some sort of connection to it; to just give us bloody and horrific acts of violence for the sake of it, can not only get real old after awhile, but it just makes you seem lazy. Rather than seeming like the talented and cool kid who can find all sorts of meaning in a painting of a red box, you still seem more like the kid who doesn’t get it, so rips it off the wall and lights it on fire.

That poor child being brought up in a world like this.

That poor child being brought up in a world like this.

Maybe that’s a huge generalization to make, but it’s not a hard one to make after watching High-Rise. There’s a lot of good in the movie, most definitely, but there’s also a whole hour-and-half where the movie does the same thing, again and again, and there’s nothing to it. None of these characters ever feel like real people we care about, nor does any of the action hit close to home because, well, it’s all an over-the-top cartoon. The tone may be dark and eerie, but not for a second did I take anything seriously what anyone did or said. Wheatley may have, but it sure as hell didn’t transition to the screen.

And this is a huge shame, because the cast he’s got really does try their best with all that they can do, but it’s really Wheatley’s show and he doesn’t really allow for anyone to grow beyond him, or the material.

Hiddleston is basically doing exactly what he did on the Night Manager, except seeming more clueless about the world around him than ever and it’s no fun to watch; Sienna Miller is fiery and hot, but has some weird subplots going on that never materialize, nor make any emotional impact; Elisabeth Moss shows up as a pregnant housewife who has a bit of an interesting dark side to her, but it’s so mushed in together with the rest of what’s going on that it almost feels like an afterthought; Luke Evans has some fun, but ultimately, goes down so many wild and wacky paths with his character that he never feels like an actual, living and breathing human being; and Jeremy Irons is, yes, pretty freaky, but that’s all he is. He never becomes detestable, nor does he ever go beyond just being “a scary dude” – he’s supposed to be the main villain of the story, but really, I just didn’t care.

Maybe that’s the point, but honestly, who knows? I clearly sure as hell don’t, as shown by my rating. Maybe I’m stupid.

I do know that.

Consensus: High-Rise toggles with interesting and eerie ideas about social classes and economics, but never makes much sense of them with a story that works, or actually intrigues past just being a bunch of bad things happening, for whatever reasons.

3 / 10

Going up, Mr soon-to-be-Bond.

Going up, Mr. soon-to-be-Bond?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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3 responses to “High-Rise (2016)

  1. greercn May 14, 2016 at 7:01 am

    I wanted to like it, but didn’t. It had the least sexy sex scenes I’ve ever watched. Your review sums up much of what is wrong with it. It tries to be intelligent but ends up feeling pretentious and a bit icky. At least half a dozen young adult/dystopian movies have said the same things better. Pity, as I liked the book and found it thought-provoking.

  2. Tom May 14, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Well this is very pooh-y news.

  3. Evan Crean September 9, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Like you, I was also on board for part of High-Rise. I agree that it showed some promise and looked great. You’re right that it loses all focus. I also just had a hard time watching the people act like savages and the needless violence against animals. Those items were major turn-offs for me. I felt like so many other movies (like Snowpiercer) have said similar things about the collapse of order due to limited resources, but they’ve said it more succinctly.

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