Director: Ji-hoon Kim
Starring: Kyung-gu Sol, Ye-jin Son, Sang-kyung Kim, In-Pyo Cha
The Film: Let’s face it- disaster movies are awesome. They have that certain appeal of showing an almost incomprehensible calamity in all of it’s destructive glory and how the characters involved deal with them. Granted, this genre has been around ever since the birth of cinema, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that Irwin Allen (aka the Master of Disaster) assisted in the rise of vicarious and bombastically entertaining fare in the likes of “The Poseidon Adventure”, “The Towering Inferno”, “Airport”, “The Cassandra Crossing” but to name a few.
The 70’s was the best period to be a disaster film as well as a well-known actor, because you knew just how popular you were the moment you were cast in those types of blockbusters. The likes of Charleton Heston, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Gene Hackman, Sophia Loren and Shelly Winters but to name a few have all been in some seriously deep shit thanks to Mr. Allen. Danger, famous faces and grandiosity was the game during this time and it made unimaginable money. In subsequent years, the disaster flick hasn’t been as warmly welcome as it was mostly a product of it’s time and it takes a lot more to shock and thrill audiences these days (which is probably why “A Serbian Film” came into fruition). GREAT disaster films have become a rarity, but there are always exceptions, say for example South Korea’s French kiss to the genre “The Tower” directed by Kim Ji Hoon. When you look at the cover, it upfrontly states that is a love child of “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno” by virtue of showing a gargantuan blazing skyscraper followed by four stars. Swell.
It’s a simple premise and one we all know- it’s Christmas Eve in the luxurious Tower Sky and the super of the complex wants to have a ‘White Christmas’ by having airbourne helicopters spray fake snow against the tower to help complete the illusion. The unthinkable strikes when one of the helicopters crashes into the tower by freak accident, causing the building to become a flaming menace to all inside. On the ground, brave firefighters are trying their hardest to alleviate the situation, but find the task far more difficult than they could have ever imagined. It’s pretty safe to say that in terms of creativity, “The Tower” fails technically because we have all seen this before and nothing truly comes as a surprise. There is no such thing as subtlety in this movie- it’s about a bunch of folks struggling to survive a burning apartment building and melodrama runs rampant. But therein lies the general positive about this movie- it’s not meant to be quiet and subdued, it’s about heightened thrills and watching how the characters cope with this more than a little insalubrious scenario, and honestly, it takes a lot of brainwracking to come up with a wholly original idea, especially if it pretains to peril.
If you saw this movie without any prior knowledge of the 70’s days of disaster glory, chances are you will find this movie highly entertaining if not completely memorable. In say that though, if you are like me and you love your danger flicks, you will find “The Tower” satisfying enough to make you remember that the disaster isn’t dead, it just takes time and effort to make a effective one and that is what “The Tower” does. Not only that, but Hoon pulls out all of the stops when it comes to visual effects- explosions, floodings, firestorms, some very nasty injuries and an entire clusterfuck of calamity descend upon the unlucky residents of the Sky Tower. I guess what also keeps the film fresh is that it is set in a foreign country which doesn’t believe in whitewashing in order to be effective, plus it helps that the cast here are likeable, even though they are hardly what you may call paragons of realism, but once again, realistic this movie is not nor does it have any intention of being so. “The Tower” takes a mighty bash at capturing the Allen Era of disaster films and for the most part it is successful. Everybody involved in this movie know the score and they are having a damn good time with it.
You know, except these folks.
Although I wouldn’t entirely consider these points a negative per se, I really do feel that the plot could have been a little more different in terms of raising the stakes and taking the sorts of risks that Allen’s movies did not or rarely did take. Given the catastrophic situation, everybody’s lives should have always been in doubt- when a movie delivers a shocking blow by taking out a particular character who the audience previously thought safe, the audience know that none of the characters are given solace. Given there is still so much prime material to draw from in the circumstance, “The Tower” didn’t seem to jump too far, perhaps in fear of the audience not enjoying the movie and thus cause it to bomb.
This movie took me on the sort of ride that I expect from a good disaster movie- I don’t expect cinematic brilliance or an in-depth study of the human soul- I want danger, I want destruction, I want human lives in jeopardy with of tragic death and on that count, “The Tower” does that admirably. It’s not original, and yeah, it’s predictable, but generic doesn’t need to always be a bad thing if done with good intention and decent talent. “The Tower” proves this theory admirably and it just goes to show that disaster will never die- all it needs is a boost in the right direction.
The Australian DVD
Unfortunately there isn’t doesn’t have a lot of special features to boast except for the theatrical trailer and the English dub.
Don’t bother with the latter, trust me.
Review written by Bea Harper
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.