Dr. Robert Laing lives on the 27th floor of a tower block with its own supermarket, its own gym and its own swimming pool.
From the first floors where the well-off live, to the top where super rich spend their afternoon between horses kept in the roof-garden and parties; we have the right social order.
Life is protected and idyllic till the moment the lower residents climb the High – Rise and everything starts to falling apart.
Based on J.G. Ballard’s societal collapse story, High – Rise tells how society is fragile with a great sense of humour but also with a genius premonition, well developed by some Ballard’s interviews read by Tom Hiddleston just after the screening.
Bill Wheatley set the story in the ‘70s (the book was published in 1975) in a really low-ish budget project.
He starts the movie putting in images one of the greatest first lines in the science-fiction stories: “Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months”.
The cast perfectly match each character: heart-throb Tom Hiddleston is the main character Dr Robert Laing (Wheatley wanted him from the start and spent the pre-production time with a picture of Hiddleston’s face in the kitchen…and what Hiddleston has to say about it is well explained in this video).
Laing has just moved in and he’s tanning himself nude when upstairs, his neighbour Charlotte (Sienna Miller) shouts down to introduce herself.
At the top floor, architect Anthony Royal, with all the elegance of the cinema master Jeremy Irons, taps around his penthouse garden in a white suite with a cane.
Luke Evans plays Richard Wilder, a lower-floor resident who starts the ascent.
Ballard’s episodic plot lets Wheatley jump whenever he chooses and the film speeds up.
Clint Mansell’s score invites us to join the game but the icing on the cake is an inspired slow-jam cover by Portishead of ABBA’s S.O.S.
“My fear is that in a totally same society, madness is the only freedom” (J.G. Ballard, 2002)