Silvia Moreno-Garcia | High-Rise
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High-Rise

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I like Ballard and I loved the High-Rise poster, so it is no wonder instead of heading to X-Men, I went to see this movie at the VIFF. It was not as awesome as I expected, but it is still a good looking piece. The plot, in case you don’t know it: People in a state of the art apartment building descend into chaos, murder and insanity.

In terms of contemporary movies which take place in the 80s or 70s, and absolutely nail the spirit of the era, High-Rise doesn’t fare as well as The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears or Beyond the Black Rainbow. Both of these movies are bolder, more visually striking, than anything High-Rise attempts. High-Rise also pales in comparison to Shivers, the Cronenberg film, which like High-Rise takes place in an ultra “modern” apartment building. Shivers, despite (or perhaps because) it is a 1975 film, crosses more lines, and is scarier, more upsetting than High-Rise. You have to admire Shivers for its cojones. High-Rise has a better budget, looks nicer, and yet, except for a couple of moments, never descends into the depths of Shivers. It does have some very nicely photographed scenes and two great Abba covers.

The problem with High-Rise is it proceeds at a good pace but then, after the halfway mark, it seems to take forever to reach the finale. And sadly the finale is not a savage conclusion, just a balloon with the air slowly escaping. I’ve always found strong parallels between The Exterminating Angel directed by Luis Buñuel and High-Rise. However, Angel, which involves a group of Mexican guests discovering they cannot leave a party, that they are “castaways” inside a building, is funnier, more biting. High-Rise is a bit too tasteful to attempt the wild antics of Shivers or the mordant humour of Angel and suffers in comparison. One also wonders, in the era when Game of Thrones regularly features nudity on screen, whether the erotic antics of the characters in the building really amount to much.

Finally, there is Tom Hiddelston in the main role. He performs in a cool and composed way, and is a cypher for the whole film, but he can’t really act the “savage” part when required. One almost wishes Michael Fassbender could have been surgically extracted from Prometheus and played the role in this flick.

Still, I’m not an X-Men fan and if you like a spec flick that is not a big blockbuster, this might be the thing for you.