The presence of Tom Hiddleston in Ben Wheatley’s latest film is bound to draw in some cinemagoers who would otherwise never have set foot in a screening room showing a film of this nature. It is likely to divide viewers depending on their taste in cinema, but those familiar with what to expect from Wheatley will no doubt be delighted.
The film is based in its entirety in a block of flats in the 70s whose amenities are so extensive; its residents have no reason to leave the building. It follows the various characters living in the tower block and the slow and deranged descent into chaos. The film doesn’t follow a coherent narrative; the narrative builds around the audience as the world does. The film is almost comparative to literature in a sense.
This strange yet effective approach almost turns the film into an intoxicating melting pot, drawing the viewers into the action and into the tower block so they feel as though they too are there with no incentive to leave. This creates an engaging and immersive experience that serves to heighten the increasing pandemonium unfolding on screen, although often it feels as though something is missing. Wheatley also uses real-world elements to add to the unsettling feeling (in particular an interesting use of ABBA’s S.O.S.).
The film does drag at points where it loses a bit of its momentum, weakening the audience’s engagement, which then impacts the experience of the following scenes. It also takes a while to unwind at the end as various points towards the end of the film almost feel as though they are going to be the final scenes.
The fantastic cast of actors complete Wheatley’s vision, painting vibrant characters, each with their own stories, that gradually build the tension to its boiling point of anarchy. However, any character progression is skewed by the complex narrative, leaving a little to be desired with regard to any arcs. The production design and setting of the 70s provide a great backdrop, the toxic blend of colours matching, and at times contrasting with, the characters set against them.
Overall, the film is a complex experience that will not suit all, but those who go in knowing what type of film to expect, will not be disappointed.