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High-Rise

4/10

Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, Keeley Hawes, James Purefoy, Sienna Guillory

Director: Ben Wheatley

I have to admit to something of an aversion to the films of UK wunderkind Ben Wheatley and this, his most ambitious project to date, did little to convert me. A crazy, bloodsoaked surrealist comedy-drama. driven on by a very busy music score, and bound to divide critical opinion, it's set in the title building, an ultra-modern 30-storey block of flats whose architect (Irons) lives by a huge Hampton Court-style garden on the roof, around which his distant younger wife (Hawes) rides on a white horse (not in the nude: all that comes later).

New to the block in Room 2505 is Dr Laing (Hiddleston), a hedonist who finds himself well at home in the overheated surrounds of the high-rise (there's a lot of vigorous bonking in this movie as well as the liberal letting of blood).

The tower block itself is like something out of Metropolis: the rich and quasi-famous, all exaggerated caricatures, live on the upper floors, while the lesser beings, who pay the same rent, live down below.

How this is worked out is never explained, but then this isn't a film for explanations: questions are rarely answered, conversations are never pursued. A small boy (Louis Suc), the son of Charlotte (Miller), one of Laing's conquests, acts as the film's observer or, if you like, Greek chorus, while the dialogue is couched in such deliberately nebulous aphorisms as 'It looks like the unconscious diagram of some psychic event.'

At any rate, one night the building's lights fail, and bawdy parties and acts of violence break out all over the block. A medical student (Augustus Prew) whom Laing disliked, telling him he might have some terminal disease just to bring him down a peg or two, commits suicide from a great height. Laing himself, refusing to perform a lobotomy on the lower floors' rebel leader (a frenzied Evans) looks like following suit when seized by Irons' flunkeys. 'You can't him put over the edge,' Irons protests. 'He owes me a game of squash.'

The film itself probably owes something to the darker work of Luis Bu˝uel, but not in a good way: it's ridiculous rather than sublime, and every bit as revolting as those folk from the lower floors.

David Quinlan

UK 2015. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour (unspecified).
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 15 Mar 2016