In our cynical contemporary world, it's so refreshing to see a straight allegorical piece that's not afraid to let go of the confines of practical storytelling in order to make a loud and passionate plea for sanity through obvious, but incredibly urgent and essential symbolism about the destructive power of free market capitalism. This is what a fever nightmare about Trump's America would look like.
I've read many reviews that harp on the many "plot holes" in Ben Wheatley's angry, impassioned, gonzo semi-masterpiece, mostly asking why the residents of a 1970s high-rise, which include a borderline misanthropic doctor (Tom Hiddleston), a bats--t insane revolutionary (Luke Evans), and a melancholic billionaire who designed the building (Jeremy Irons), stay in a place where class warfare gradually turns the whole area into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. That's as much of a plot as you will get in the first place.
Any questions about the practicality of the characters' decisions in a real-world setting are futile, since the goal of Wheatley and his team seems to be to take J.G. Ballard's fury over Thatcher era British free market capitalism and merging it with the clusterf--k that the narcissism of that system brought upon the contemporary Western world, while condensing the whole world into a skyscraper in an attempt to make these issues clearer.
Every floor and every character bring out an over the top satirical element of the modern class system. It's not just a gorgeously designed and shot art house film full of heavy symbolism, the entire film is one big chunk of symbolism. And it's easy for many to respond to such a brash and bold approach to activist-minded filmmaking with "We get it, bruh!", but when the criminals have taken over the jail and the crazies have taken over the asylum, and selfishness is a virtue to cherish above all others, sometimes we need a true artist like Wheatley to get in our faces and scream, "What the hell are you doing!? This is where we're headed! Wake up!" Are we that different than the people in the high-rise who ignore the entire system crumbling around them while they look for empty conveniences to keep themselves busy?
Yes, as the crap hits the fan and the high-rise turns into a dog eat dog hellhole, the third act of the film gets stuck in an episodic rut. We keep waiting for a convenient climax where the poor brutally murder the rich so we can get our quick fix of revenge fantasy amongst the real world helplessness we feel everyday about our inability to affect change in the system. But in a film that harshly criticizes the modern western person's addiction to quick fixes, Wheatley makes sure that what we get in the third act is a sort of planned chaos, a deep dive into unchecked nihilism where all traces of sanity and order are removed.
Even when rich blood is eventually spilled, the corruption persists, and nothing really changes, because the system that feeds on narcissism and fear has already attached itself to the walls of the high-rise, and that's not the kind of stink that can be removed with a quick spring cleaning. It's frustrating, challenging, and definitely not for everyone. But whatever it lacks in, it makes up for it thanks to its unbridled passion and creativity.
Wheatley heavily borrows from some of the most stylish directors of the 70s, chief among them Stanley Kubrick and his love of symmetrical frames (It's no wonder the film's marketing is based on the famous poster for A Clockwork Orange). His vision of a sociopolitical nightmare is far from the drab colors and sullen visual approach one might expect from such a project. This is a film dripping with color and contrast. That's why experiencing it in this gorgeous 1080p transfer, with a perfect representation of the colors and the tones from the theatrical presentation, is essential.
High-rise is a full-blown sensory experience, and Clint Mansell's eerie score glues the whole chaotic project together. Mansell is already known for music that really gets under your skin, and he doesn't disappoint here. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is immersive and should be experienced on a home theatre setup. Despite the film's relatively low budget, a lot of care obviously went into the surround mix.
Commentary by Ben Wheatley and Tom Hiddleston: This is a loose and conversational commentary that delves into the many details of the productions. Wheatley's confession of his completely unironic love for ABBA is pretty funny.
Building the World of High-Rise: A 10-minute featurette where the cast and crew talk about the attention to detail when it came down to creating the film's 70s feel.
Heady Special Effects: As it can be guessed by the pun, this is a 3-minute featurette about how the realistic depiction of a skinless human head was achieved.
Breaking Down the High-Rise: A 15-minute featurette where the cast talk about their characters.
Bringing Ballard to the Big Screen: A brief clip where the cast and crew talk about Ballard's influence on the film.
We also get a Trailer.
The term "acquired taste" was invented to describe films like High-Rise. Wheatley's demented and furious political fable is unsurprisingly dividing audiences, and will probably keep doing so over time. With an excellent A/V presentation and interesting extras, this Blu-ray is highly recommended to fans of the film.