High-Rise (film)

High-Rise is a 2015 British dystopian horror film directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, and Elisabeth Moss.[4] It was produced by Jeremy Thomas through his production company Recorded Picture Company.[5][6] Its screenplay was written by Amy Jump and based on the 1975 novel High-Rise by British writer J. G. Ballard.[7]

Teaser poster
Directed byBen Wheatley
Produced byJeremy Thomas
Screenplay byAmy Jump
Based onHigh-Rise
by J.G. Ballard
Music byClint Mansell
CinematographyLaurie Rose
Edited by
  • Amy Jump
  • Ben Wheatley
Distributed byStudioCanal
Release date
  • 13 September 2015 (2015-09-13) (TIFF)
  • 18 March 2016 (2016-03-18) (United Kingdom)
Running time
119 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£6.1 million (approximately US$8 million)[2]
Box office$4.1 million[3]

The film is set in a luxury tower block during the 1970s. Featuring a wealth of modern conveniences, the building allows its residents to become gradually uninterested in the outside world. The infrastructure begins to fail and tensions between residents become apparent, and the building soon descends into chaos.

In September 2015, the film received its world première at the Toronto International Film Festival and its European première at the 63rd San Sebastián Film Festival. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 18 March 2016 by StudioCanal. Though a critical success, the film's theatrical box office failed to meet its production costs.[2][8] In 2017 it was nominated for the Empire Award for Best British Film.


The film opens with Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) living in a ravaged high-rise tower block, killing a white Alsatian and spit-roasting its leg.

Three months earlier, the forty-story tower on the outskirts of London, built by esteemed architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), is the epitome of chic, modern living. Wealthier residents live on the top floors, and more common families below. With amenities including a pool, gym, supermarket, and even a primary school, the occupants have little reason to leave the building beyond working hours, and are increasingly isolated from the outside world.

Laing moves onto the 25th floor after his sister dies. Beginning a relationship with single mother Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller) and becoming a fatherly figure to her son, Toby (Louis Suc), Laing befriends documentary filmmaker Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) and his pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss), who live in a low-level apartment with their children.

While Laing leads a physiology class in examining a severed head, a student named Munrow (Augustus Prew) faints and is given a precautionary brain scan. The next day, Laing is taken to the 40th-story penthouse to meet Royal, and is invited to a party thrown by Royal's snobby wife, Ann (Keeley Hawes).

The gathering turns out to be an 18th-century costume party where Laing's everyday suit is ridiculed by Ann and other guests, including Munrow, who also lives in the building. Humiliated, Laing is thrown out and becomes trapped in an elevator during a power outage. Such outages are becoming common, along with water being shut off and garbage chutes becoming blocked, to the annoyance of lower-floor residents. Royal tells Laing these are simply growing pains of a new building.

Munrow's brain scans come back clean, but a vengeful Laing leads him to believe he has a brain tumor. Another power outage ignites a night of decadent partying throughout the high-rise, and a drunk Munrow commits suicide by jumping off the 39th floor. Suspicious that no police arrive to investigate, Wilder becomes intent on exposing the injustices within the high-rise.

Law and order in the building disintegrate as violence becomes commonplace, food from the supermarket becomes scarce, and class warfare erupts between floors. It is implied that Royal has bribed authorities to ignore the disorder. Guilty over Munrow's death, Laing shows signs of mental disturbance, eventually barricading himself in his apartment and settling into the chaotic atmosphere, even having sex with Helen.

Wilder, waking up from a fight with upper-floor residents, intends to kill Royal, believing him responsible for the chaos. Acquiring a gun from the Royals' former housekeeper, Wilder learns that Charlotte is Royal's aide and Toby is Royal's illegitimate child. Breaking into Charlotte's apartment, Wilder tortures and rapes her for information on Royal. The only resident who still leaves for work, upper-floor resident and television newsreader Cosgrove (Peter Ferdinando), is captured and killed by a gang of lower-floor residents.

Some upper-floor residents ask Laing to lobotomize Wilder as a dangerous agitator. After conducting a psychiatric examination, Laing refuses, stating that Wilder is "possibly the sanest man in the building", and is nearly thrown off the tower but Royal intervenes. He and Laing discuss the failure and arguable success of the high-rise as a "crucible for change" that could lead to "new developments", giving residents the opportunity to escape to a new life. The women at the top plan to establish new management of the building, and Helen gives birth to her overdue baby. Wilder makes his way to the penthouse, shooting Royal dead after a scuffle, and is killed by Royal's harem of women, as Toby looks on through his kaleidoscope.

The film ends as it began in the ravaged high-rise. Violence has abated somewhat with many residents dead and apartments in ruin. Laing appears to have gone insane, speaking about himself and to others in the third person and talking to the building. He lies down with Charlotte, reflecting that what has happened will eventually reach the second tower of the development. The film concludes with Toby listening to a radio broadcast of Margaret Thatcher declaring that where there is state capitalism there can never be political freedom.




British producer Jeremy Thomas had wanted to make a film adaptation of J.G. Ballard's High-Rise since the 1970s.[9] He tried to make it in the late 1970s with Nicolas Roeg directing from a script by Paul Mayersberg.[10][11] In the 2000s, Thomas began developing the project with screenwriter Richard Stanley and director Vincenzo Natali, with the film intended as a loose adaptation of the novel.[12]

In 2013, Wheatley started looking into who held the rights to the book, which led him to Thomas.[13] Wheatley has remarked: “The book makes as much sense now as it did then. It was written in the '70s, projecting itself into a near future, but we live in that future now. We’re almost in a new version of the '70s.”[14]

Screenwriter Amy Jump, who is also Wheatley's wife, adapted the book.[15]

Hiddleston's involvement in the project was announced in February 2014 after he was cast in the role of Dr. Robert Laing.[16] Hiddleston had previously worked with Thomas on Jim Jarmusch's 2013 film Only Lovers Left Alive.[5] The involvement of Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss was announced that June.[17][18]

Clint Mansell composed the soundtrack for the film.[19]

International sales were handled by HanWay Films, and key financiers included the British Film Institute and FilmFour.[14][18]


Principal photography began in July 2014 in Belfast,[4] primarily in the seaside resort town of Bangor, Co. Down.[20][21]

On 3 July 2014, director Ben Wheatley tweeted pictures of the set.[22] On 6 August 2014, Tom Hiddleston tweeted a photograph of himself from the set seen in character as Laing, together with Wheatley, Luke Evans and director of photography Laurie Rose.[23]

Elisabeth Moss later remarked on Wheatley and the shoot: "I don't know anyone who makes movies like he does... (it was) like if you gave him a bigger crew, a little bit more money, costumes and hair and makeup, all of that stuff that maybe he hasn't had before. It was so fun, he is just a fucking genius and he's so funny."[24]


Prior to production on the film, it was announced that StudioCanal and The Jokers would be distributing the film in the United Kingdom and France respectively.[18] In August 2015, it was announced that Soda Pictures would distribute the film in Canada.[25] The film had its world première at the Toronto International Film Festival on 13 September 2015.[26] It had its international premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival on 21 September 2015.[27] The film went onto screen at the London Film Festival on 9 October 2015, and the Torino Film Festival on 22 November 2015.[28][29] Shortly after, it was announced Magnet Releasing had acquired the US distribution rights to the film.[30] The film was released on 18 March 2016 in the United Kingdom.[31] The film was released in the United States on 28 April 2016, with a day and date video on demand and theatrical limited release on 13 May 2016.[32][33]

The film failed to recover its production costs.[2][34]

Critical response

The critical response to the film is polarized. Tim Robey of The Telegraph awarded High-Rise 4 out of 5 stars, praising the brutality and dark comedy.[35] IGN awarded it a score of 7.0 out of 10, saying "Enjoyably dark and disturbing adaptation of one of J.G. Ballard's best."[36] Kate Wilson of Varsity gave the film a 5-star review, calling it a "masterpiece."[37] Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 59% score based on 203 reviews and an average rating of 6.3/10; the site's consensus is "High-Rise may not quite live up to its classic source material, but it still offers an energetic, well-acted, and thought-provoking take on its timely socioeconomic themes."[38] Metacritic gives the film a score of 65 out of 100 based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[39]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
British Independent Film Awards[40] 6 December 2015 Best Actor Tom Hiddleston Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Sienna Miller Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Luke Evans Nominated
Best Screenplay Amy Jump Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle Awards[41] 22 January 2017 British/Irish film of the Year High-Rise Nominated
British Film Designers Guild Awards[42] 28 January 2017 Best Production Design for an Independent Feature Film Mark Tildesley, Frank Walsh, and Paki Smith Won
European Composer and Songwriter Alliance Grand Scores Award[43] 2 February 2017 Best Orchestral Score Clint Mansell Won
Empire Awards[44] 19 March 2017 Best British Film High-Rise Nominated
Diversity in Media Awards 15 September 2017 Movie of the Year High-Rise Nominated

See also

  • Snowpiercer, a 2013 film with a similar plot of class war in an allegorical society


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  4. Wales, George (5 February 2014). "Ben Wheatley confirms Tom Hiddleston for High-Rise". Total Film. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  5. Barraclough, Leo. "Berlin: Tom Hiddleston to Star in Ben Wheatley's J.G. Ballard Adaptation 'High-Rise'". Variety. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
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  16. Denham, Jess (5 February 2014). "Tom Hiddleston cast as lead in film adaptation of JG Ballard's High-Rise". The Independent. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  17. Oliver Lyttelton (13 June 2014). "'The Hobbit' Star Luke Evans Joins Tom Hiddleston In Ben Wheatley's 'High Rise'". Indie Wire. Archived from the original on 16 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  18. Leo Barraclough. "Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss Join Ben Wheatley's 'High-Rise'". Variety. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  19. "Clint Mansell Scoring Ben Wheatley's 'High-Rise'". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
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  25. Soda picks up rights to 'High-Rise', 'Disorder'
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  31. Gallagher, Brian (14 December 2015). "'High-Rise' Trailer Starring Tom Hiddleston & Sienna Miller". MovieWeb.com. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
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  42. "THE BRITISH FILM DESIGNERS GUILD ANNUAL (70th ANNIVERSARY) AWARDS GALA 2017 | thecallsheet.co.uk". www.thecallsheet.co.uk. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
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