Korean Disaster Epic The Tower Review

Usually I’m against remakes. I can’t stand the thought of an original movie being butchered to try and cater for today’s audience or, worse still, Hollywood remaking a perfectly good foreign film with the justification ‘people don’t want to watch movies with subtitles’.

Having said that I’m not against the idea of all remakes (‘The Lawnmower Man ‘would be good with the advances in technology and CGI we’ve had for example) and the idea of the tables being turned and the East remaking a Hollywood film I have to say, was intriguing
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This brings me on to The Tower, which sees director Kim Ji-hoon put his spin on the 1974 US disaster movie classic The Towering Inferno. The Towering Inferno starred Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, it was nominated for eight Oscars (winning three) and was the first joint production between two major Hollywood studios (20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.). Pretty big boots to fill.

Ji-hoon assembles a lesser known cast for his version but goes large on the effects with some 1,700 shots out of a total of 3,000 having some element of CG. Post-production apparently lasted two years…

The story revolves around the 120 luxury complex known as Tower Sky. The owner throws a Christmas Eve party and pays for helicopters to fly above the towers dropping real snow onto the crowd below. Obviously, this being a disaster movie, something goes badly wrong and one of the helicopters crashes into one of the towers just below the sky bridge linking the two. This leaves building manager Lee Dae-ho (Kim Sang-kyung), his young daughter, the restaurant manager (who he secretly loves) and a whole host of party guests and residents of the tower trapped whilst fires burn, floors collapse, structures buckle and the building leans threatening to collapse into its neighbour.

The Tower is a fantastic film that goes above and beyond the usual disaster movies. It has the sort of look and feel of a big budget Hollywood movie, not just from the CG, but also the sets of which some 26 were created for the various scenes. The acting is good, deaths are handled well and, apart from a couple of attempts at humour which don’t really fit, it’s a fantastic movie.

Where the movie really enters its own though and starts to become so much more than just a disaster movie is when a group of local fire-fighters arrive. You have a captain – a veteran and legend in the brigade – alongside his usual crew joined by a rookie on his first day. At this point the movie starts to become much more ‘human’, more personal. It moves you and works with the overall feel and at the very end of the film the movie feels like a homage to fire-fighters everywhere with scenes reminiscent of those we saw after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Usually too much CG is a bad thing, usually putting emotion into a disaster film is a bad thing. Kim Ji-hoon manages both of these things with aplomb and gives us a movie worthy of its 1974 inspiration. He also shows Hollywood just how remakes can be done. Grab the DVD to see the extras and before and after shots of the CG in action.

This review first featured on the website 24FramesPerSecond.net

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