Review: High-Rise (2016) Director: Ben Wheatley (15)

J.G Ballard's dystopian tower block nightmare is beautifully brought to the screen by screenwriter Amy Jump and her director husband Ben Wheatley. It's been a long time coming, after producer Jeremy Thomas initially wanted to make a film adaptation in the 70s with director Nicolas Roeg. Thankfully Wheatley found him and his vision, which we've seen previously with Kill List, Sightseers and A Field in England, is again gloriously rich, full of dark humour and with some shots that will take your breath away.
When a film opens with Tom Hiddleston cooking a dog's leg on a spit, you know things have gone very bad indeed. Hiddleston's Dr Robert Laing moves onto the 25th floor of a new, luxurious apartment block. Luxurious depending on which floor you live on; the families are on the lower floors, Laing significantly in the middle and the elite rising to the top with the penthouse of building architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) - he has a resplendent garden, with his wife Ann (Keeley Hawes) parading around as Little Bo Peep with her own black sheep and a white horse to ride on. The lower levels crave to move up, whilst the elite look down on them with extravagant parties.
Laing meets plenty of unusual characters in his new abode, including the violent yet alluring Richard Wilder (Luke Evans - channeling the spirits of Oliver Reed and Lemmy), lady about apartment block Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller) and Wilder's very pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss). Life in the high-rise doesn't stay luxurious for long, with power failures, rubbish being disposed of incorrectly and a huge swarming mass of people just not getting on. When Wilder takes over the the downstairs swimming pool for a children's party, throwing out the elite and drowning a prized dog, the mood definitely 'turns'.
What Wheatley is especially good at is terror, and he has a ball with High-Rise. As tings gets chaotic, we have severed ears, stabbings, sad orgies and Wilder going batshit crazy even though he's the sanest man in the building. You could liken it to Shivers where the apartment block inhabitants become infected, and there's certainly a Cronenberg essence to the film; one shot of an old TV set, with the presenter repeating the same thing again - and again - and again, really feels that way.
Another Wheatley tendency is the slight overindulgence of the 'art'; whilst wonderfully filmed, some shots can feel a little contrived and too 'film school' - especially the kaleidoscope murder. There are more stunning sequences than duds, with the mirrored elevator shots of Laing and Ann's party particularly standing out.
High-Rise is visually one of the best films you'll see all year, and the leads of Hiddleston and Evans make it even more fun. They carry it off, with all the cast being very strong. If you enjoy seeing people descend into brutality, it's just the ticket for you.
4/5 dogs. No, not the dogs