While The Tower may come off as a Korean remake of The Towering Inferno, but even so, this is a thrill ride that doesn't skimp on emotion either. A moving, effective, and thrilling disaster piece, once it gets going, it rarely lets up.
At the center of the film is Dae-ho, a single father who helps manage the safety of Sky Tower, a fictional super-high rise in Korea. Home to many luxurious apartments and amenities, including a restaurant. Taking place on Christmas Eve, a massive party turns into a massive disaster as an accident sets the building ablaze. Dae-ho's daughter, who joined him for the party, becomes stranded and Dae-ho attempts to rescue her. Helping him are the nearest firefighters, who make a heroic attempt to save the people trapped inside and put out the blaze.
The film has a number of secondary characters and side stories, all of whom we're introduced to within the first 30 minutes. The film does a good job setting up our characters and giving us reasons to care about them, from the cleaning woman and her college age son whose tuition she supports, to the elderly couple, of whom the man in the relationship is trying to be more supportive and caring towards his wife. Each of these side characters has great moments and you care enough about them to want to see them all survive. When the time comes that not all of them make it, it's truly tragic. It helps that the acting, even if a bit melodramatic, is effective. Dae-ho, in particular, is an effective father who never comes off as less than heroic.
However, the heart of the film is the disaster itself, and more so than any film in the past couple years, the disaster here is truly epic and effective. While the film isn't terribly gruesome, it doesn't shy away from showing us the tragedy or effects of the disaster in the film. There is a bit of blood here and there, but most of what is effective is due to the scale of the disaster or the intimacy that we have with the people effected by the chaos. One great example comes from an elevator full of people who become trapped amidst a floor with a raging fire. The film doesn't shy away from giving us a glimpse inside the elevator for effect.
And once the disaster does hit, the film rarely slows down. Obstacle after obstacle is thrown in the path of our characters. Not everyone makes it, giving the film an edge of suspense that leaves you wondering who will make it out alive and who won't. Disaster films are at their best when they display two things: the tragedy these disasters bring and the suspense of never really knowing what is going to happen next. The Tower brings tons of both. All in all, this is a great film with a wonderful heart.
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