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dir Ben Wheatley
scr Amy Jump
prd Jeremy Thomas
with Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Elisabeth Moss, Luke Evans, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Dan Renton Skinner, Sienna Guillory, Enzo Cilenti, Peter Ferdinando, Reece Shearsmith
release UK 18.Mar.16, US 28.Apr.16
15/UK Film4 1h52
Calm in the chaos: Moss and Hiddleston
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a string of triumphs behind them, Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump hit a rough patch in this adaptation of JG Ballard's dystopian social satire. The political observations are strong, but oddly stuck in the 1970s period setting. And it isn't easy sitting through chaotic violence when there isn't a single sympathetic character.
In a concrete tower block within commuting distance of London, new resident Robert (Hiddleston) is learning his way around the self-contained building, flirting with his upstairs neighbour Charlotte (Miller). Wealthy residents including the building's architect Anthony (Irons) live at the top, while struggling families like Helen and Richard (Moss and Evans) are confined to the lower floors. And no one is very happy about their life. When the lower floors lose their water and power, they begin to revolt against the upper class, leading to full-on war waging in the hallways.
The actors dive into their roles with gusto, so it's frustrating that the frenetic editing and fragmented chaos means none of the characters emerges as a fully fledged person. Everything about the film feels random, from inexplicable encounters to sudden bursts of violence and sex. And it only takes about a half hour to wear the audience out, which leaves the rest of the film to play out in a blindingly dull flurry of messy nastiness.
Hiddleston has presence in the early scenes, but Wheatley abandons him early on, splitting his attention with the other story strands. So no one clicks into place. Irons hams it up as the top posho, Evans goes on an inexplicable rampage, Miller and Moss are seductive then brutally victimised, and so forth. It goes on and on, yet despite the starry faces no one emerges as someone interesting enough to command either attention or sympathy.
In addition, Wheatley and Jump never quite make sense of their decision to set the film in 1975, when the novel was published. This offers brutal industrial architecture and witty sets and costumes, plus of course cruel Thatcherite politics, but it never quite resonates with present day audiences like it really, really should. This is a parable about the 1 percent reluctantly sharing the planet with the other 99, and yet the film is such a jarringly abrasive cacophony that any message is lost. Thankfully, Wheatley and Jump are smart enough to learn from this.
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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