I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
This might be the weirdest film I’ve ever seen in a multiplex. That may be a reflection on my choices of films to review rather than anything else. I’m not going to argue that this is some Lynchian labyrinth or some dog from Andalusia, but this is one bizarre picture. (If you got both of those references, give yourself a pat on the back, you’re a true cinephile!)
Based on the J.G Ballard novel of the same name, this is a satirical near-fantastical movie about an area of Britain in an unknown period where there are high-rise flats which implement a social hierarchy which leads to life there being “prone to fits of mania, narcissism and power failure.”
When it comes to “artsy” films, with a lot of metaphor and hidden meanings, I believe that as long as the movie is at least competent, pretty much everyone in the cinema will broadly “get it”.
It’s pretty clear that this film is a satire on humanity’s desire to return to tribal warfare, even in a modern, polite era.
I feel, however, that there are layers to this film that would require whole articles of analysis, which would go into spoiler territory, which is entirely not my domain.
Before I get into the stuff that is a little more difficult to go over in this story, let’s look at the way this film is put together.
Tom Hiddleston is our lead, a doctor who lives in the high rise and wants to live a peaceful existence and yet gets tangled up in the mess of those around him. We have seen characters like this before in other near-fantastical stories about man’s base nature. He is us, looking into the abyss of other people’s depravity.
What’s great about this character, though, is that he is not entirely passive. We actually see him fall into the madness as well. What results is us empathising with those who get sucked in. We get sucked in. The madness is more real than originally thought.
Jeremy Irons plays the architect of the high rises. His involvement in the spreading of the ensuing anarchy becomes more ambiguous, though you cannot deny that the very creation of these towers were the seeds of chaos.
The stand-out performance for me comes from Luke Evans (you know, Bard from The Hobbit). He is the rebel. The representative of the lower floors who tries to fight his way to the top in the hopes of creating a more equal society.
It is not surprising to me that the book on which this film was based was written only a few years after the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange was released. Evans’ character to me is very reminiscent of Alex from that book and film, doing some unspeakable things in the name of human freedom, but ultimately gaining our sympathy. Is his revolution in vain? Even after seeing the movie, you might not be so sure.
Another thing that struck me was the direction and editing of this film. A lot of POV shots, epic silences, slow motion, this feels like a big film. Certainly larger than the tall building in which it takes place. There is an understanding that the themes at play here go beyond the surroundings.
There is also an understanding that the audience doesn’t need much convincing that bad stuff is about to go down, evidenced by the editing. Much of the descent into madness after the turning point is portrayed through montage as the behemoth block of flats crashes in under the weight of the petty human beings residing therein. We don’t need to be spoon-fed this change.
Like I’ve said before, I would like to go deeper into this film, though I fear spoilers would be a result and of course, I have seen this movie only once.
As is evidence from this, I like this movie a great deal. It respects its audience and whether or not it is a faithful adaptation of the J.G Ballard novel that I’ve not yet read, I’m at least glad that we ended up with a film nuanced enough to follow in the footsteps of great British 70s speculative fiction.
Recommended Scenario: If you want to be depressed at the nature of the human animal while being thoroughly confused by it.