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Film / High-Rise

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High-Rise is a 2015 British thriller directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, and Elisabeth Moss. The screenplay by Amy Jump is based on the 1975 novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard.

The film centres around a tower block that is insulated from the outside world. As the infrastructure fails and tensions between the lower and upper floors escalate, the residents become violent and the situation spirals out of control.

This film provides examples of:

  • Avenging the Villain After shooting Royal, Wilder is stabbed repeatedly by his harem of female companions.
  • Big Blackout: Power outages set off a chain of events that plunge the building into chaos.
  • Black Comedy: Throughout the film, but particularly notable moments of this include Cosgrove's Death by Irony as seen below and Laing eating the dog at the start of the film.
  • Children Are Innocent: Despite the horrific acts committed by the adults, the children are depicted only as victims.
  • Coitus Interruptus: Laing and Charlotte are interrupted by the babysitter.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: By the end of the film, Laing seems to accept his way of life in the now mostly derelict building, saying to himself that what just happened will be repeated with the next tower when it opens.
  • Dark Reprise: ABBA's "S.O.S.". It appears in a string quartet arrangement (which eventually and anachronistically gains drums) during the 18th century costume party held by the elite of the building. Long after the building has descended into full chaos, a dark, downtempo version by Portishead plays.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the film, the event that motivates Laing to move to the high rise is the death of his sisternote , however in the book she already lives in the high rise, and is the one who invites Laing to move there after he divorces his wife, which is the event that motivates him to instead of his sister's death.
  • Death by Irony: After Cosgrove the newsreader is murdered, Steele keeps the body in his apartment and places a broken TV on his head so that his face is always on the screen.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Helen, who smokes, drinks and does drugs despite being nine months pregnant.
  • Driven to Suicide: After Laing convinces Munroe he has a terminal brain tumour, a chaotic party and too much alcohol sends him leaping to his death.
  • Eat the Dog: The unsettling way the film opens. Perhaps a Stealth Pun giving the building's eventual "Dog Eat Dog" mentality.
  • Everybody Smokes: 80% of the scenes feature smoking! Well, it was The '70s...
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Laing picks up a book on learning French, but gives it away to the supermarket clerk. She spends the rest of the film speaking unsubtitled French.
  • Foreshadowing: When asked where his father is, Toby simply points upward...
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: This happens to an entire building!
  • Gone Horribly Right: Royal designed the building to be a "crucible for change". He was not wrong...
  • Instant Expert: The checkout girl learns perfect french, just weeks after Laing gives her a French study book.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Monroe's jump to his death is juxtaposed with Laing letting loose by dancing at a lower class party and the elites having a lot of drugs and sex at theirs.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Wilder was this, but he's lost his edge. He gets it back though, as the building descends into chaos.
  • Kill the Poor: The penthouse's solution to the unrest in the building. Dispose of the riff raff on the lower floors and turn their flats into more amenities for the elite.
    Pangbourne: "Once we’ve dispensed with the likes of Wilder, we play the lower people off each other. In short, balkanize the central section. We can then begin colonization of the entire building. Then I propose Royal here draw up plans to remodel the lower floors. Driving range. Cricket nets. Club house."
  • Ludd Was Right: The film and the novel to a greater extent criticise a dependency on technology. As soon as the tenants are cut off from it, they start unravelling.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Well, dog food, a pet horse and dog. There's plenty of booze though!
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Wilder finally meets Royal in his rooftop penthouse garden. it doesn't end well for either of them.
  • Sanity Slippage: Most, if not all of the characters, go from normal people to cartoonish maniacs.
  • Shout-Out: All the signage is Eurostile/Microgramma Bold Extended, the futuristic typeface made popular by 2001: A Space Odyssey to hint that the tenants are similarly doomed explorers in a new frontier.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: A very physical example, when the building's infrastructure breaks down.
  • The '70s: More moustaches and sideburns than you can shake a stick at. And the British Leyland cars, too.
  • Take That!: A big one toward Margaret Thatcher at the end of the film. To be precise, it's a broadcast of her 1976 "state capitalism" speech.
  • While Rome Burns: The upper floor residents, including Royal, deny things are going pear-shaped at first. Royal in particular dismisses the power outages as "teething problems".