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THE TOWER (2012)


Ji-hoon Kim



Run time:

2h 2m

A high-end apartment complex is engulfed in flames on Christmas Eve and its residents scramble for survival in this visually impressive but sickly saccharine disaster outing

If there was ever a film designed for existing genre-heads, then The Tower is a gift to disaster fans everywhere.

Re-treading The Towering Inferno from the 1970s, this is a variety bag of disaster movie tropes and attempted emotional heartstring pulls.

What it does do well, and many fans of the genre will insist this matters most, is deliver the disaster set-ups with visual aplomb. Seemingly, the film is most intent on finding narrative devices to tie these action scenes together, rather than a developed plot where the action happens along the way.

However, if you find yourself in the market for a couple hours of fiery explosions, gushing interior tsunamis and rapid-fall elevators, then The Tower is a disaster movie which fills its action-laden brief.

Lee Dae-ho (Kim Sang-kyung) is the maintenance manager to the 120-story luxury apartment complex ‘Sky Tower’ in central Seoul and a single father to his adorable daughter Ha-na (Jo Min-ah). He harbours desires for restaurant manager Seo Yoon-hee (Son Ye-jin), who is handed care of Ha-na briefly as Dae-ho investigates the building’s faulty sprinkler system.

Meanwhile, as it is Christmas Eve, the building’s owner is holding a ‘White Christmas’ party for the complex’s VIPs, but the helicopters circling above to drop fake snow on the party lose control and crash into the building.

Enter our brave fire brigade, with its Captain Kang Young-ki, played by long-term A-list star Sol Kyung-gu, who has Oasis, Peppermint Candy, Silmido and Hope on his impressive filmography. Alongside him are rookie Lee Seon-woo (Do Ji-han) on his first day and station prankster with a heart of gold Oh Byung-man (Kim In-kwon).

We are then served various disaster movie set-ups, such as small groups trapped by fire rings, people foolishly using elevators in a fire, then a genuinely tense walk across a glass bridge as it starts to crack.

There are flickers of commentary on social class anxiety, when a list is drawn up of vital people for firefighters to prioritise saving. This results in saving an obnoxious couple rather than the gaggle of proletarians trapped elsewhere, but we relatively quickly move on from such commentary in favour of more disaster set-ups.

The film does offer a fitting dedication to firefighters around the world, unpacking the toll the job places on these people and their families. A job where you might be called to your death at any station bell-ring.

Where it seems to be trying too hard is in the various sentimental tear-jerking moments that are not as emotionally impactful as the special effects are visually impressive. You have an investment in young Ha-na's fortunes as you would have a heart of stone otherwise, but if you are partially versed in such films you know that dramatic and heroic death is just around the corner.

Action-packed and a feast of disaster set-ups on the eyes, The Tower does not tread particularly new ground, but it does offer a couple of hours of high-octane flame-licked entertainment all the same.

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