Tom Hiddleston in High-Rise
"Jump epitomises her name, springing from character to character in a way that feels messy rather than deliberately chaotic." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Amy Jump's adaptation of JG Ballard's High-Rise - directed by her husband Ben Wheatley - looks great thanks to cinematographer Laurie Rose but it is far too cut-off from the world of pre-Thatcher's Britain that it ultimately claims to inhabit. Supposedly set in the 1970s, this tale of class war subjugates the alienation and savage bite of Ballard's book and relies too heavily on montage to drive its story forward.

Tom Hiddleston stands suavely at the film's heart, in full beard and bloodied shirt, still and serene in the middle of madness before we spin back in time to consider its causes. He lives somewhere in the upper middle section of a high-rise building constructed by the architect (Jeremy Irons) in a bid to bring various sectors of society together. Nevertheless there is a strong hierarchy in place, with families inhabiting the lower floors, the likes of Hiddleston's doctor in the middle echelons and the architect prowling about a penthouse, complete with palatial gardens and even a horse.

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Representing the lower levels is documentarian Wilder (Luke Evans), an ape of a man who lives with his heavily pregnant wife (Elisabeth Moss, sporting a terrible fake belly) and family and whose brooding anger and attempt at televising the revolution are the most compelling aspect of the film. It's a shame then, that he is often relegated to the sidelines as Jump epitomises her name, springing from character to character in a way that feels messy rather than deliberately chaotic. Despite the concentrated setting, the action has a scattered feel as we flit between storylines.

A central montage is a particular mistake, acting as a segue of madness between order and anarchy, although it looks lovely, its jumpy editing and trippy nature unglue us from the characters' arcs unnecessarily as though Wheatley - working with a much larger budget than he is used to - didn't quite have the courage to employ it fully, opting instead to retain the sort of shorthand necessary in smaller films. The decision to use a Regency style party as a way of highlighting decadence also feels like a missed opportunity, when something altogether more rooted in the Seventies would have provided a greater weight.

When political references are dropped in, almost casually, at the end of the film - one of which is likely to sail over the heads of most non-British audiences - they are too little, too late and lacking any sort of foundation.

Reviewed on: 06 Feb 2016
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High-Rise packshot
Class war breaks out in a tower block.
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Andrew Robertson ****1/2

Director: Ben Wheatley

Writer: Amy Jump, based on the novel by JG Ballard

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Dan Renton Skinner, Sienna Guillory, Enzo Cilenti, Peter Ferdinando, Reece Shearsmith, Augustus Prew, Stacy Martin, Leila Mimmack

Year: 2015

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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