jeremy irons

Film Review: Multistory mayhem in “High-Rise”

Tom Hiddleston stars in this long-awaited adaptation of J.G. Ballard's novel about an apartment building that's a microcosm of class divisions

“My building has every convenience. It’s gonna make life easy for me.” –Talking Heads, “Don’t Worry About the Government”

“Movin’ on up, to the top, to a deluxe apartment in the sky.” –Ja’net Dubois, “Movin’ on Up (Theme from ‘The Jeffersons’)”

 

The above examples demonstrate that J.G. Ballard’s novel “High-Rise” wasn’t the only 1970s pop-cultural critique of urban living—just one of the most dystopian. In that decade, the utopian dream of planned housing developments soured into resentment and alienation, and Ballard was, as usual, at the forefront in recognizing the ways modernity and technology could really mess with people.

“High-Rise” has now, after a thirty-year effort by producer Jeremy Thomas, been made into a film, one that captures Ballard’s anxieties but fails to update them, and therefore ends up feeling almost too faithful to the book. The setting remains, vaguely, the 1970s, and Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) has just moved into the 25th floor of a 50-floor residential monolith. Laing is, as the few scenes set outside the building show, a medical instructor specializing in the brain, and one can’t help but wonder if his name is a reference to the radical 1960s psychiatrist R.D. Laing.

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Film Review: “The Man Who Knew Infinity” is a formulaic biopic of a math genius

A solid cast including Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, and Toby Jones can't elevate this by-the-numbers biography.

Biopics in general can fall into ruts of rote storytelling and textbook-like recitations of facts, but the direst subsection has got to be biopics about scientists and mathematicians. Movies about athletes, actors, musicians, and statesmen at least have their public performances, political victories, or personal sordidness with which to entertain us. But scientists, unless they were totally bonkers or otherwise fascinating (“A Beautiful Mind”), tend to have precious little in their biographies to inspire anything more than admiration.

Case in point: “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” a serviceable but unremarkable movie about a mathematician who undoubtedly deserves to be honored–especially since racism and colonialism prevented him from being acknowledged in his lifetime.) His career, though, simply doesn’t make for stimulating cinema–at least not in this telling of it, by writer-director Matthew Brown, adapting Robert Kanigel’s 1991 book. It has the feel of a term paper submitted by a student who’s a smart writer but only covered the topic because it was assigned to him.

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