High Rise (UK, 2016)

Directed by: Ben Wheatley. This one was purely the poster image on the DVD cover—look at that thing! If that’s not enticing, I don’t know what is. There were plenty of big names on this, but none of them really rang a bell for me terribly. I had heard of Ben Wheatley, but due to circumstance I didn’t make it 20 minutes into A Field in England. And I know I’m supposed to adore J.G. Ballard, but the only thing I’ve read of his was Hello America, and it was pretty far from a “master of premonition for the future” or “master of diagnosing the ills of the modern condition” or whatever else is ascribed to Ballard. And I like Tom Hiddleston as much as the next guy, but the contrarian in me sees how much everyone loves his Loki character in the comic book movies, and it makes me want to throw him in the garbage. But for all that—this was a very good movie, one of the most interesting films, one of the most unique voices of a film I’ve seen in a long time. It threatens to burst the fourth wall, not quite as self-consciously as Derek Jarman, and it’s rich in stylistic flourish, but not in the repulsive Baz Luhrmann sense, and it’s antiseptic and clinical like Cronenberg’s Cosmopolisbut more exciting—it just kind of sits in this unique space, which I suspect is the intersection between the Ballard book and Wheatley’s style, stewing in its own manic-depressive energy, this little fabular microcosm of 80’s Thatcher Britain and the 21st century world of today, everything built to perfection and slowly boiling down into entropy and destruction. The world of this film, even as brutal and unpleasant as it is, is strangely attractive, and in a way it’s a movie I want to see over and over. There’s an awful lot of stuff in here, and most of it is indirect and allegorical I think, that maybe I didn’t get the first time. It has the kind of masterful, whiplash, editing style and pacing, like MTV in a Renaissance painting, that hasn’t felt this fresh in Scorsese since Goodfellas. And the acting, my god! Hiddleston wins me over here completely, and I’ll follow him to the ends of the earth now. It’s great to see Elisabeth Moss doing great stuff, and she brings a really warm quality to the movie, so it turns out that her role is the only “nice” person in the fucking building, and she’s perfect for it. A lot of older men could play the deranged millionaire in the penthouse, but only Jeremy Irons can lend that unsettling air to this idealized skyscraper, with only his countenance. Good old James Purefoy from Rome is absolutely amazing here too, that bourgeois arrogance from Mark Anthony a perfect match for the worst excesses of nihilistic 80’s capitalism. I can’t recommend this one enough, and I can’t wait to see it again.

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