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  Tower, The High Rise Hysteria
Year: 2012
Director: Kim Ji-hoon
Stars: Sol Kyung-gu, Kim Sang-kyung, Son Ye-jin, Kim In-kwon, Ahn Sung-ki, Song Jae-ho, Lee Joo-shil, Lee Han-wi, Kwon Tae-won, Jeon Guk-hyang, Jung In-ki, Cha In-pyo, Jeon Bae-soo, Kim Sung-oh, Min Young, Jo Min-ah, Do Ji-han, Kwon Hyung-sang
Genre: Drama, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's Christmas Eve in Seoul, South Korea, and the manager of the newly opened Tower Sky twin skyscrapers is getting ready for the day. He is Lee Dae-ho (Kim Sang-kyung), a single father who tells his daughter Ha-na (Jo Min-ah) they will meet again this evening for the grand party which will be held at the River View tower for the residents and guests. He is secretly in love with the restaurant manager Seo Yoon-hee (Son Ye-jin), something his colleagues are aware of so perhaps tonight would be appropriate to ask her out, but there seem to be problems with the building, not least with its safety concerns...

If the sight of a skyscraper on fire reminds you of anything, there could be two reasons for that. One was the most obvious cinematic influence on director Kim Ji-hoon which was The Towering Inferno, perhaps the greatest example of the disaster movie craze of the nineteen-seventies where the studio would get a bunch of stars together and place them in dire peril, in that case a flaming building. Yet ever since the 11th of September 2001, you couldn't really make a film like this without people making connections between the visuals in the fiction with the memories of the World Trade Center attacks.

So Kim could be accused of bad taste, especially when selected images of his catastrophe as played out here not only resembled the 1974 Hollywood movie but also the news footage of the Twin Towers being destroyed back at the turn of the millennium which had been broadcast around the world. You couldn't put it to the back of your mind as the plot unfolded, but you could understand this was mainly a made up disaster with far more to do with the blockbusters of cinema than it was a commentary on anything that had occurred in real life, and so it was The Tower, or Tawo as it was originally called, went on to be one of the biggest hits in South Korea of its day, not to mention doing well across most of East Asia.

The opening half hour made heavy weather of introducing the characters, or potential victims as they were, mixing comedy, romance, drama and others with a style that followed into the rest of the story when the action began. This appeared to be an effort to render the tale of the tower as all-inclusive as possible, so you could say all of human life was there, or all of South Korean life at any rate as the building and its staff and occupants became a microcosm of society. That society was heading for hell in a handcart according to this, but predicting disaster right around the corner was a very post-millennial practice, and went very well with this type of spectacular entertainment.

That was the idea, and once we had the bumpy prologue done and dusted we could get to finding out who was going to survive, the cast including both the richest and the poorest, the authorities and the public, not forgetting the firefighters who here were led by the stoic and stony-faced Captain Kang (Sol Kyung-gu), setting himself up for an act of great heroism from practically his first appearance. There were setpieces, naturally, with the window washers' gondola sequence where a group of survivors had to jump into the cradle many storeys up and the bit where they tried to cross a glass bridge to the safety of the other tower as it cracks around them definite highlights. The veering between the tension and the goofier humour was very much of its region, but wasn't too jarring for Westerners, or would be the least of their worries thanks to the issues outlined above. But whatever reservations there were, The Tower pushed the right buttons for a solid adventure movie. Music by Kim Tae-seong.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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