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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Tower"


Disaster movies are not really a huge genre in Korea. With budget and scale being an issue for those more into the action than the human element and those focusing on the human element limiting their destruction, it is a tricky type of film to pull off. "The Tower" is definitely in the former category of going for big visuals, big dangers, big everything. At the end of the day though, it offers more style than substance.

It is time for Christmas Eve celebrations in the new twin high-rise aiming to provide only the finest luxury living to its inhabitants. The owner wants to host a decadent grand opening, going as far as to bring in helicopters for providing fake snow. But strong winds crash the helicopters into the complex. To make matters worse, failing safety measures mean the fire is out of control. As the buildings are in danger of collapsing, firefighters arrive and begin a race against time to evacuate the survivors.

Yeong-giHeight scares

The movie is certainly very serious about offering a thrilling disaster ride and this shows in how much effort is put into its mayhem. The production value is high, there is heavy use of CGI, a lot of stunt work, fire, set annihilation and just all the things one would expect from such a movie. It is also worth noting that the movie is clearly aware and capitalizes on the unease heights bring to many people. There are some good ideas here and a share of them is fairly well executed and creative.

When looking at the human side of it all, there is a variety of characters all trying to survive. Some are the kind meant to betray, some are the protectors, some are even comic reliefs. The stereotypes of such films are definitely here and they are pretty easy to spot. The movie does well in focusing on a few key characters who embody the typical hero, trying to help others, keeping their group from panicking and just making the best out of a very bad situation. Not all of its main characters are as easy to feel for, as the movie does not focus on the character development above its action, but those who are likable carry it well.

The same cannot sadly be said about many of the side characters, who range from unnecessary to annoying. The attempts at a comedic break are not really helping with momentum much, neither are they very funny. There is hysteria, there is whining and all the things that happen in such works, but the above flaw combined with the film's other big one found below somehow make it all a bit too tiring to keep focused on.

Dae-hoThe authorities

What ultimately kills the fun here is that the movie is just too long for its own good. Running a full two hours, the work just struggles to present one dire turn of events after the other, but lacks the very important raising of the stakes. Doing this gasp-pause-gasp-pause dance for 120 minutes is just not a way to maintain suspense. So very early into the whole thing, the viewer kind of checks out. Suspense stops being suspense when it turns into a routine and you see the next big thing coming and going and continuing the same way.

"The Tower" has some good parts and it is certainly a great accomplishment. It does what it sets out to do mostly well and it is impressive to see how many of the things audiences love about such works it does right. It is certainly an ambitious piece reaching for the skies. But its lack of a more compelling story and cast of characters and its love with its own wow factor eventually make it tedious and dragging. A fun experience for viewers, but not the short and sweet ultimate fun it could have been.

"The Tower" is directed by Kim Ji-hoon, written by Heo Joon-seok-I and Kim Sang-don and features Sol Kyung-gu, Son Ye-jin, Kim Sang-kyung and Kim In-kwon.

Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'


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