Movie Review: "The Tower"
Length: 121 minutes
Release Date: Jan. 11, 2013
Directed by: Kim Ji-hoon
Genre: Action, Drama
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
Foreign films sometimes get a bad reputation. Moviegoers assume that these films are always serious and require intense concentration, but "The Tower" hopes to change all that. Set during the holiday season, it plays like a cross between "Die Hard" and "The Towering Inferno" with a little added emotion.
"The Tower" takes place in a large apartment building called Tower Sky. Dae-ho (Kim Sang-kyung) is a single dad raising his daughter and working as the manager of the complex. He has a secret crush on Yoon-hee, and she offers to babysit his daughter, Ha-na, after he receives an emergency call. After promising his daughter that she will get everything she wants for the holidays, he heads off to look at the problem.
While the film primarily focuses on Dae-ho, it also introduces other characters, including Young-ki (Sul Kyung-gu). A long-time firefighter, Young-ki always worked the holiday shifts, but he decides to take the night off and treat his wife. When a fire breaks out in the complex, all of the characters must come together to help each other escape and survive.
One of the brilliant things about "The Tower" is that it doesn't settle on one character for too long. The film shows the people trapped inside the apartment as much as those hoping to save them. It also does a good job of showing how the people work together. Ha-na and Yoon-hee share little in common, but when push comes to shove, Yoon-hee is willing to do anything to protect the little girl. Then there's Dae-ho and Young-kee, who only meet when the disaster strikes. Despite no prior connection between the two, they quickly come together to fight the flames and reach those trapped in the building.
"The Tower" shares much in common with "The Towering Inferno," a classic disaster film from the 1970s. Each film takes place in an expensive high-rise apartment, and each tells the story of a group of people who need to escape. Those hoping for a straight-up action film might be disappointed with the first thirty minutes of the film, which serves to showcase the main characters. These early scenes are vital to the film, because they introduce the central characters and give viewers a reason to care for each and every one of them.
The most heartbreaking story is that of little Ha-na. All she cares about is seeing a white Christmas, and her father promises that it will happen. While he works on the Christmas Eve festivities, he sends his little girl off with Yoon-hee, knowing that she will get her wish because his boss has arranged for fake snow to rain down over the building. Viewers can't help watching as she stares eagerly out of the windows, because they know what is coming.
American action-film directors should take notice of "The Tower." Modern-day action films often drag at times and let up on the action to focus on different plots and characters, but "The Tower" puts the focus on the action. After setting up the characters, it shows the president of the company sending his men to pour fake snow over the building. Even though he receives several warnings about wind problems, he sends his men to work. Once the fake snow ignites a fire that quickly spreads across the building, he shows no remorse for his actions.
The scenes that show start of the fire will have viewers sitting on the edges of their seats. Those scenes have a dark intensity and look so realistic that some might even feel like they can feel the flames. It only takes a few minutes for the fire to spread throughout the building, and those moments are some of the best action scenes show onscreen in years. The director doesn't pull any punches when it comes to showing the destructive nature of the fire either. He shows the damage done to the upper floors, and he shows the building slowly collapsing, which makes it nearly impossible for those downstairs to reach their loved ones on the upper floors.
"The Tower" almost plays like two different films. The first half of the film focuses on character development and the fire, while the second half deals with the people inside the building. Dividing the film in half lets the director give viewers exactly what they want in an action film. With an emotionally driven plot and realistic CGI work, "The Tower" is one of the best action films and best foreign films of the past few years.