Movies adapted from books are always expected to be good and pay homage to their source material, even though that seems impossible.
And when a movie comes close to doing just that, the world over rejoices and moviegoers, critics, and book readers all over the world are happy. This is much the reaction the world has shown for Ben Wheatly’s ingenuous adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name, “High Rise”, with the screenplay written by Amy Jump.
There is almost nothing wrong with this Ben Wheatly direction and anyone who wants Ballard’s “High Rise” rising up and out of the big screen will be happily satisfied.
The movie stars the sophisticated Tom Hiddleston as the young Dr. Robert Laing who has just moved into an apartment building which is soon to descend into chaos and anarchy. The tone of the movie is trademark Wheatly – dark and devilish, which makes him the best pick for putting Ballard on the big screen. The movie feels as if Ballard’s imaginary apartment building, complete with mess and mayhem had been presented on a silver platter, and those who have read and loved the book will love the movie.
The movie shifts genres seamlessly – from black humor to dystopian parable, and it vividly and horrifyingly captivating.
The building, designed by architect Anthony Royal, played by the iconic Jeremy Irons (“The Borgias”, “Night Train to Lisbon”) is hedonistic in its design – with the architect living in a penthouse with a vast garden. With the incremental descent, the change which Royal mentions is the objective of the building begins to show itself as society begins to unravel and civilization begins to break down. The lower levels of the building are crowded and occupied by the lower levels of society – the lower class men and women of the 1970s who quarrel over lack of lift privileges and plunder other tenants wine deliveries and showcase other such criminal behavior
The building itself and the blackening interior are both masterpiece and highlight of the movie. Ben Wheatly’s direction is perfect as he knows when to speed up and when to put on the brakes. The movie is an ode to dystopian narratives and is very much respectful of its source material.
The only flaw with Wheatly’s almost perfect adaptation of Ballard is that he fails to make the dystopian narrative relative to the anxious and fretful present that we live in. That would have made the movie the perfect adaptation of a dystopian novel, if it ever existed. With that minor snag and a few mismatched casting choices, this movie is the loving recreation of Ballard’s concept. But again, like many dystopian novel adaptations, the movie fails to say anything new.