Cult-favorite director Ben Wheatley takes on J.G. Ballard’s satirical novel of urban cultural hypocrisy, and the result is frustrating. Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) has just moved into his new apartment in a residential high-rise building that manages to be both sparkling and oppressive, all concrete and glass, sunlight and dark corners, spacious and airy yet cold and brutal. The social hierarchy is strictly architectural: The déclassé inhabit the lower levels, the elite on the upper levels; on the middle floors, Robert discovers middle-class hedonism. Such inequality cannot endure, of course, and it all collapses into actually apocalyptic chaos; think raiding parties to other floors to steal supplies (such as cocktail mixers). This is where the film itself collapses, as the mayhem swoops by in too-quick montages that favor only very mildly wry visual humor. The cast—also featuring Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss and Jeremy Irons—is excellent, but the most captivating thing here is production designer Mark Tildesley’s mounting of a 1970s idea of the near future, perhaps hovering in a now-alternate 1990s. Too bad the story's leaden literal-mindedness drags it down.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Producer: Jeremy Thomas, Peter Watson, Thorsten Schumacher, Lizzie Francke, Sam Lavender, Anna Higgs, Gabriella Martinelli, Christopher Simon and Genevieve Lemal
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes and Dan Skinner