I wasn’t too impressed with the monster flick “Sector 7”, but I guess I was curious how director Kim Ji-Hoon would fare in a disaster movie. “The Tower” is a film that has been inspired by the classic “The Towering Inferno” or at least it appears to be as such. As with most disaster movies such as “Tidal Wave”, “2012”, “Volcano” and “The Day After Tomorrow”, this film takes a simple premise such as a tale of heroism and sacrifice into a display of special effects.
The set up of the movie is pretty pedestrian. A high-rise building that houses the rich and new lottery winners. Despite the money put in its construction, it was made for superficial reasons and was hardly made with ‘practicality’ in mind. During a Christmas party, an accident causes the huge towering skyscraper to turn into an inferno as the heroic firefighters mobilize to save the lives of those within.
At the film's first act, the viewer is taken for a ride to establish who the main characters would be and just who they are and how they move around their lives. As such the film does fall under the areas of cliché, the screenplay doesn’t exactly go for something more imaginative seeing as how there would be a lot of characters in the film. However, the film does take the central focus on certain characters, while allowing the rest of the characters to be caricatures. You know exactly who would be fodder and who would play a bigger part in the script. I know this wasn’t exactly a bad thing, but it does somehow already call its shots early. It does become predictable, despite the fact that one wouldn’t exactly know how the central characters would play into its screenplay.
Elements of brotherhood and family were introduced in the way the firemen and the building employees interacted. The film also injects a social commentary about the wealthy, political power, human error and arrogance and persons of authority. It touches upon but the film does not really go that far into the areas that would’ve made it much more compelling. I thought it was a weakness of the script to introduce such things and yet play it safe. I know the movie probably wanted to easily relate to the viewer in establishing a look to the characters’ personal lives, but really, the characters weren’t all that different from the ones we’ve seen in other films. The film does serve up a lot of emotional scenes, and certain things connected, but the direction was a little too unpolished with its bouts with tonal shifts. The film puts in some touches of humor and they felt misplaced at certain areas in the plot. The comedy did become a little annoying, and I thought it hurt the pacing.
Once the film goes into the actual disaster, it does take off. It then takes its focus on the firemen and the central characters. “Ladder 49” and even “Armageddon” comes to mind with some scenes that felt like a homage to “Towering Inferno” and “Backdraft”. If one wants to talk special effects, the film does do a great job. It was easy to feel the urgency and the perils of the situation, as the shots truly did make one feel that it was an inferno. The set designs were done in a way to exude the lifestyle of the rich until the towering structure became something very close to hell. I thought that the movie did a good job in animating the damage to the structure and how certain laws of physics were made to make the disaster feel more realistic. It was a film about the race against time, with elements that feel like a chase movie with the fire close behind.
There were key scenes that made the movie work, while some became overly predictable (the remote and so forth). Despite the flaws in the script, the performances were decent and some were even good. Sol Kyung-Gu (Silmido) did a credible job in his portrayal as the captain of the firemen. Kim Sang Kyung played the single father who has un-proclaimed feelings for Son Ye-Jin’s (Open City) character, and despite the clichés of their relationship, it made some plot set ups much more effective. Ahn Sung-Ki (Arahan) was a little underused in the script as his dealings with the “commissioner” (Kwon Tae-Won) only made moderate narrative impact in the film’s first half. In-Kwon Kim played one supporting character that easily won me over with his antics both in its dramatic and funny moments. Cha In-Pyo plays the owner of the structure and who stands to lose everything. Unfortunately, his character made a small impact in the film’s overall script.
Lately, I have noticed that the majority of recent Korean and Chinese films often try to emulate Hollywood, and “The Tower” is such a film that could’ve been much more if the filmmakers wanted to go a little bit further. While I thought it could’ve been better, the script was able to get certain points across, such as the definition of sacrifice and just how ‘smaller’ people tend to lose more in the face of such tragedy. It wasn’t afraid to show an ugly reality about the rich and the poor, the ones with political power and the ones who can considered as the ‘grunts’ of public servitude. It also manages to express a thought about pets and that they should not be more important than actual people. “The Tower” was an entertaining film that served up moderate suspense and impressed with special effects. The screenplay just needed a lot of smoothing over, as certain tonal shifts proved to be bothersome. There were some scenes which were unintentionally hilarious, and it hampered its flow. No, “The Tower” isn’t a bad movie, but rather an entertaining one among the ranks of commercial disaster movies. I do think it was better than “The Towering Inferno” and as an intended remake(?), it succeeds. Mild Recommendation, Rent it First [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
In some corners, I can’t offer enough praise for the films coming out of South Korea. It used to be – back when I just started exploring their flicks – they had the market on quality, pulpy actioners featuring slickly dressed guys who were quick with a gun and quicker with a steely glance. Not long after that, their studios amped up their comedy exports, but, as is often the case with humor, those works didn’t translate as easily as one would’ve … more