High-Rise

Diretor: Ben Wheatley (2016)

This towering cinematic achievement offers the audience a dark view of modern life.

British director Ben Wheatley brings to J.G. Ballard’s 1975 blood soaked satirical sci fi novel vividly to life.

With The Kill List (2011) Sightseers (2012) and A Field In England (2013) under his belt, he has the most singular vision of any British director working today.

Aided by his scriptwriter and wife Amy Jump, Wheatley has erected another uniquely English construction of comedy, horror, politics, sex and violence.

Currently starring in TV’s The Night Manager, Tom Hiddleston is hugely impressive as Dr. Robert Laing.

He’s just moved into a skyscraper and is determined to fit in to the rigid social hierarchy.

Living in the penthouse with his nostalgia obsessed wife and her private menagerie is the pointedly named Anthony Royal.

It’s another intelligent performance from Jeremy Irons. The buildings architect a godlike figure who can’t understand the free will of the chaotic people who populate his creation.

Royal believes he has left one crucial ingredient out of his building, but he hasn’t taken account of the effect of the building on the people who live there.

Laing has a short lived affair with the single mother who lives on the floor above. As the seductive and brittle Charlotte, Sienna Miller relishes the opportunity offered by the role to essay a complex character and delivers a strong and memorable performance.

Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss as the fertile working class couple on a lower floor are among the strong supporting cast.

As it’s cutting edge 1970’s technology fails, the high-rise deteriorates and Laing starts to suffer a nervous breakdown.

While the penthouse hosts regency themed cocktail parties and swingers accumulate on the shag pile rug, the poor are blamed for their own misfortunes.

There are riots in the supermarket and violent class war descends into animal behaviour.

Styled in the 1970’s the decade the book was written, it’s a concrete, plastic and polythene world dressed in lurid shades of nylon sportswear.

The concept of recycling is in the future, nature is absent or seen as polluting, a hindrance, and a threat. Organic matter is something to be fenced off, bagged up and removed.

A smart script, great design, excellent performances and brilliant use of music combine in powerful critique of social engineering.

Although containing many ideas which are prescient, the power cuts, bodies and bin bags piling up are powerful reminders of headlines of the decade but the historical relevance may need explaining to a younger audience.

But seen from a distance, none of this undermines the soaring strength of the storytelling technique.

 

 

Truth

Director: James Vanderbilt (2016)

Best switch channels than tune into this ham fisted drama about the fall of real life TV journalists.

A self serving and poorly constructed script plus an over wrought tone destroys the solid work of stars Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett.

He plays venerable journalist and avuncular TV anchorman Dan Rather, a surrogate father to his producer Mary Mapes.

Under ratings pressure she breaks a big story about the military service record of the young George W. Bush who is seeking a second Presidential term.

But when the story unravels due to a dodgy dossier, unreliable witnesses and thin evidence, the journalists become the story and must fight to save their careers.

Mary is a driven, intelligent, and contradictory but is an unsympathetic figure who prefers to cry conspiracy than recognise her own weaknesses.

Thinly written supporting characters have barely there interactions before being forgotten about.

The film touches on several styles and genres, wildly snatching at a tone to give meaning to the dull drama playing out.

In the style of a heist movie, a crack team of journalists is assembled but given absolutely nothing to do before quietly slipping out of the movie.

It then becomes a busily plodding procedural movie with moments of courtroom and sporting drama.

Despite protestations of political impartiality, rival TV networks seem to fighting a proxy election campaign with the CBS employees firmly in the Democratic Party anti-Bush camp.

The script makes grandiose claims about the power of journalists to influence elections but with a week being a long time in politics, the decade old story has little contemporary resonance now Bush is long out of high office.

There is none of the relevancy of the recent Best Picture Oscar winning Spotlight (2016). It also lacks that films extraordinarily rigorous storytelling.

In bizarre scenes devoid of irony, ordinary citizens are seen gazing in wonder at Dan read the news. They’re primates reaching out to the monolith in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Truth is a hymn to the memory of Rather whose name means little to a UK audience. It also a lament for the good old days when the news wasn’t subject to a political agenda prescribed by wealthy owners. (Ha!)