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TIFF Review: High-Rise

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A doctor moves into a high-rise apartment building where the different floor levels indicate the social level of the inhabitants.

Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) who is mourning the death of his sister decides to live in a high-rise where the rich live on the upper levels and the lower class on the bottom ones.  As he gets to know the residents, the new occupant becomes aware of an undercurrent of dissent.  After an invasion of the indoor swimming pool by commoners in response to their treatment, the outrage explodes into a bloody civil war that leaves no one unscathed.

After years of being in development, the surreal and volatile novel by J.G. Ballard comes to the big screen courtesy of filmmaker Ben Wheatley (A Field in England).  The social satire which sees the building be treated as a character itself is full of sex, violence, and dark humour.  The 1970s defines the look of the retro-futuristic, dystopia that includes massive sideburns, songs from ABBA and technology from the decade.  The arrival of the medical officer as a tenant provides the opportunity for the audience to have a guide in this unruly world of concrete.

The visual language is highly stylized with bright colours, slow-motion, and intricately crafted composition and framing of shots.  Absurdity rules the day as individuals become more irrational and brutal in their dealings with each other.  There are moments where one feels awkward for finding some of the nasty and outrageous behaviour to be amusing.  Subtlety does not rule but instead excess and chaos.  The movie is interesting to watch though the shock value may lessen with each subsequent viewing.

2.5 out of 5

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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