I haven’t read any JG Ballard so I’m unable to pronounce as to whether Ben Wheatley got High Rise ‘right’. So from the perspective of an almost unknowing cinema goer this to me felt like a very clever, very well done dystopian fantasy.
It nailed the seventies with the colours, the costumes, and the hair not to mention the prolific sex. An atmospheric score included ‘SOS’ by Abba in a variety of styles to suit the moment. And obviously the subject was of great significance.
The high rise becomes a microcosm of society with the rich at the top sucking up the electricity, leaving the poor of the lower floors without power. The rich have dogs and the poor have children. The rich have parties in period costume, in a way that, perhaps heavy handedly, recalls pre-Revolution France. The lower floors have parties I imagine to be typical of the 70s, filed with sex and drugs.
Image from Wikipedia
The main plot device is obvious, and apparent from the beginning: the lower floors are becoming dissatisfied and anarchy ensues. The question is more how does it happen and what will happen next?
It is strange, intriguing and perfectly captured typical postmodern fears of social collapse. For this it is highly entertaining and incredibly clever. However at some moments you do start to feel that the point has been made and it is dragging it out just a little. Equally if you are an animal lover to the point where you struggle to hold back the tears if something soft and furry gets hurt then this film will not be pleasurable for you.
While I didn’t particularly enjoy that element I can at least say that the adaptation was fun, engrossing and very cleverly executed. While some have commented that it was overdone so much that the message was lost, I think it got the balance just right, involving you in the action enough so that you almost feel complicit while keeping you at enough of a distance to understand the warning. And what is that you ask? Go watch it and find out.