Korean Movie Review – The Tower (타워)

December is upon us once more, which means Christmas is merely days away! It’s a wonderfully festive time of the year where everyone who celebrates the holiday is happy and in good spirits. So what better way to get this month’s reviews started than by discussing a Christmas film in which thousands of people are burnt alive due to some slack health and safety procedures? Behold, film revelers: I give you Kim Ji-hun’s “The Tower” (2013).

The setting of last winter’s biggest Korean release is Sky Tower, the tallest and most expensive apartment block in Seoul. The building’s management wants to host a Christmas party, which will earn them all sizeable bonuses before the holidays. During the party, however, a fire starts in one of the towers and, because of a faulty sprinkler system, the building is doomed. Once all the richest residents are saved, the mayor decides that the only way to limit the damage is to blow up the building with whoever is left inside. In spite of this development, the firefighters won’t give up as they look for a way to save themselves and whoever is left in the building.

“The Tower” has a few exciting moments involving daring firefighter rescues and exciting jumps between buildings. But in my opinion, the film’s main stumbling block is its fundamentally flawed script.

As with any formulaic blockbuster, both the characters and their relationships are established very quickly: a love-struck single father, a married fire captain, a new recruit, etc. Each one is designed to pull us in, but instead the opposite happens; one after the other, each is revealed to be a caricature while the “bad” characters, i.e. the rich people, simply come across as pantomimed villains.

Despite the film’s impressive visual effects and tense plot twists, the build-up is ultimately lost because, even if a character falls to a heroic or villainous demise, by the time the film’s over, you simply don’t care.

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