What is ‘High-Rise’?

Very soon, the Tom Hiddleston fandom (of which I am a member) is going to start hearing about a film called High-Rise. The first full trailer for the film was released earlier today, and it offers a tantalizing and bizarre glimpse into a movie that hosts one of Hiddleston’s defining roles.

So what the heck is High-Rise?

The film is based on a novel by acclaimed author J.G. Ballard, who had a penchant for dystopian stories and sci-fi headscratchers. The story revolves around several characters who move into an ultramodern 40-floor high-rise apartment building. The high-rise is equipped with several swimming pools, gymnasiums, a fully-stocked supermarket, several schools — all the luxuries and conveniences one could possibly need.

Seeking a new start after his divorce, Dr. Robert Laing (Hiddleston) buys a flat for himself in the high-rise. But not long after he moves in, the building and its inhabitants begin to break down. The building is plagued by blackouts. The elevators rarely work. The hallways fill with garbage. The swimming pools turn putrid. Why? It’s all fallout from a class war that develops in the building. It’s all a grand metaphor: higher floors, middle floors, and lower floors. The higher floors have nicer amenities; a lobby all their own, special parking spots. And the higher-ups will do just about anything to stop those who live in the lower floors from taking their luxuries.

It’s a chilling, baffling, and disturbing novel. It defies real-world logic in service of the big class war metaphor. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to many, but those of you who are interested should check out the new recording of the audiobook, read by Tom Hiddleston himself.


The film’s director, Ben Wheatley, will be familiar to Doctor Who fandom. Wheatley directed a pair of Series 8 episodes, but is more well-known to the film community as the director of oddball English films like Kill List, Sightseers, and A Field In England. I think his sensibilities are perfectly suited for High-Rise, which early reviews are saying is as beautiful and strange as the trailer above. The film adaptation was written by Amy Jump, who had the Herculean task of giving Ballard’s story some much needed structure.

High-Rise arrives in UK cinemas this March. A U.S. release is expected to follow later this year.

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