Monday, 30 May 2016
Several distinct sub-categories of the British middle-class seal themselves inside a concrete tower block shaped like a hooked finger, then go feral trying to out-do each other. Refreshingly, there is no wider social issue or calamity at play in High-Rise, the sickness is self-contained and comes in waves, crashing over the building's competing groups. These people have complied, voluntarily narrowing their lives' focus, desperate to establish their own, defensible, position in a culturally imposed, but ultimately unenforced, social pecking order. Jobs become distant, secondary concerns, the cars required to leave this maelstrom are abandoned to fire and rot. Everyone wants to play the game instead.
Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump's adaptation of JG Ballard's novel simulates the fizzy hysteria of confined conflict, tracking the prolonged, petty agitation that transforms your basic sun-lounger skirmish into the kind of teeth and claw barbarity you'd expect from a Stalingrad flat share. Tom Hiddleston plays Robert Laing, a doctor and therefore an appealing neutral presence in this intersectional meltdown. His job allows him to mix at every level, becoming a largely impassive presence prone to light, boarding school cruelty. Pointedly, his job is the only role that the new order has any real use for. Despite his protestations, Laing is consulted on a variety of pressing medical issues, trusted to make decisions and dream up solutions, so long as they're basically the same shape as the ruling class' whimsical diktats. While other citizens of this curling, brutal fist hunker down and secure their territory, Laing drifts. An aimless but personable observer.