Credit: Aidan Monaghan

There are certain movies that you really want to like based on their ambition, or their weirdness, or their ambitious weirdness, and ultimately you just can’t. Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise is one of those movies. Based on J.G. Ballard’s 1975 cult sci-fi novel, the film revolves around a metaphor that’s too obvious and hinges on performances that are too inscrutable. The supremely talented Brit Tom Hiddleston, who is equally at home in the Marvel Universe or Jim Jarmusch’s and is making a run at becoming the next Michael Fassbender, stars as Robert Laing—a young doctor who’s just moved into a sleek, new Brutalist apartment building. The residence is vertically segregated by class. The higher up you live, the better off you are. It’s like Snowpiercer (real estate stands in for a post apocalyptic train), with Jeremy Irons’ all-powerful Mr. Royal lording over the great unwashed from the penthouse, literally looking down on them. Laing quickly crosses paths with the luxury skyscraper’s colorful tenants, including Sienna Miller’s boozy, posh single mother, who lives one floor above him; Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss’ squabbling couple, who live below; and Irons’ head-in-the-clouds evil genius, who built the whole Darwinian stack of Jenga blocks. And like all Jenga heaps, it’s only a matter of time before this one topples, with blackouts, violence, and the solitude-seeking Laing’s personal loyalties put to the test. Wheatley, the indie director probably best known for 2014’s A Field in England, shoots the class-warfare chaos with a hallucinatory beauty. But the high-rise-as-allegory bit has been done in David Cronenberg’s Shivers and George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead. Hiddleston can’t not be interesting, but the structure supporting him is built on a shaky foundation. C+

  • Movie
  • 109 minutes