Director Ben Wheatley’s “High-Rise” has its first trailer, in which Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) takes us on a tour of novelist J.G. Ballard’s gleaming—and isolating—luxury apartments, shortly before life inside turns from dream to nightmare. Adapted from Ballard’s 1975 novel by the director’s wife and frequent collaborator, Amy Jump, Wheatley’s film blends visual referents from several eras: though the film is set in the 1970s, it’s not always clear, at least from the trailer, if the titular high-rise exists in the recent past, the distant future, or both.
Though Hiddelston is sublimely creepy here, reviews out of Toronto (where the film premiered this fall) found anything but a consensus. Whether a confusing, on-the-nose parable or future cult classic, however, it’s clear from Hiddelston’s tour that Wheatley hasn’t lost the striking visual sense of “Kill List” (2011) or “A Field in England” (2013).
The film, which co-stars Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, and James Purefoy and earned four British Independent Film Awards nominations last month, hits theaters next year. Read our roundup of early reviews below.
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Eric Kohn, Indiewire:
“‘High-Rise’ isn’t an entirely cohesive accomplishment, but that’s part of its zany appeal. While in certain ways his weakest film, it maintains the morbid entertainment value found throughout Wheatley’s work while marking an ambitious step up in scale.”
Peter Debruge, Variety:
“[A] flashy and frequently incoherent adaptation of J.G.
Ballard’s towering 1975 social critique, in which the low-budget British genre
innovator seizes the excuse to play with professional-grade actors, sets and
camera equipment, while taking a wrecking ball to many of the novel’s brightest
Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter:
“‘High-Rise’ is a rich and fascinating mess. But it is a mess. Wheatley and Jump have turned the lean, lucid architecture of Ballard’s prose into a baggy, disjointed, sprawling grand folly of a movie. The biggest disappointment is an almost total lack of menace and humor, key selling points in all their previous films.”
Henry Barnes, The Guardian:
“Ballard saw how society reacts to a grand mal seizure when he grew up in a Shanghai internment camp. Society is fragile: we’re a cross word away from raping or killing our neighbour. He wanted to strip away the sheen – but director Ben Wheatley layers it all back on. His vision is weirdly glossy, with the story set in the ’70s (the book was published in 1975); the combination of the low-ish budget production values and the wry tone makes the film feel like a pastiche.”
Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International:
“‘High-Rise’ may have its stumbling blocks, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but that’s always going to be the case with a film which forces you on board for a wild and messy ride. ‘Ballardian’ entered the dictionary some time ago as a by-word for ‘dystopian modernity’— usually blended with eroticism and death. That, 40 years and countless dystopias later, Ben Wheatley can still make his work look modern and edgy in times when we think we’ve seen it all is indeed a feat to be celebrated.”