The Tower on DVD

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00
Posted in Cult Movies on DVD
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The Tower - out now on DVDA fictitious twin-tower skyscraper called Tower Sky is the venue for swanky Christmas Eve soirée. The 108-floor, high-tech monoliths contain luxury apartments and everything their occupants could want including a selection of restaurants and a garden. This being a disaster film, the building’s negligent management firm has been a bit lax with health and safety; when a devastating accident during the party causes a fire to break out, a sprinkler failure endangers the lives everyone inside.

This thrilling blockbuster from South Korean director Ji-hoon Kim strives to match the perils of “The Towering Inferno” and “World Trade Centre”, keeping interesting, likeable characters at the centre of the drama whilst also depicting the terrifying effects of a fire engulfing a skyscraper using state-of-the-art special effects. Once you have seen this movie, you might be afraid to ever venture into a tower block again.

The opening thirty minutes carefully introduce the key characters including Dae-ho (Sang-kyung Kim – “May 18”), manager of the 108-floor building whose young daughter Hana (Mina Cho) is visiting, food court manager Yoon-hee (Ye-jin Son – “A Moment to Remember”), along with assorted staff, tenants and firemen. Some of the roles are a little stereotypical, such as the loving old couple, the bossy, self-important rich woman and the fireman on his last ever shift. The tone is light and often romantic but with the portentous revelation about the faulty fire suppression systems overshadowing everything.

Disaster then strikes in truly spectacular fashion, and from there on the film presents an almost non-stop bombardment of deadly situations. As the fire spreads, more and more the floors are destroyed, forcing the occupants to keep on moving. It is very efficient dynamic for persistent tension with mini peaks and troughs; until they manage to get out of the building, safety is only temporary and the clock is always ticking down.

To keep the drama riveting, the scenarios are regularly mixed up.  One horrific scene features some people trapped in a claustrophobic lift, surrounded by flames that threaten to boil them alive. Another sees some unfortunates gingerly tip-toeing across  the glass bridge that joins the two towers 70 levels up; cracks start to snake along it but the survivors know they have to suppress the overwhelming urge to run.

The fire-fighters play a major role in the movie, trying to evacuate as many people as they can but also subject to mutually exclusive orders to focus on putting the fire out to preserve as much of the building as they can for financial reasons, and also target the rich and famous party-goers trapped right at the top of the structure rather than the more numerous or easily accessible ‘masses’ lower down. The dilemma between conscience and morally dubious orders is a potent source of drama.

The special effects are top-notch, a fact made all the more remarkable when you consider that of the 3000 shots in the film, a massive 1,700 of them feature effects work of some description, mainly CGI. External shots of the towers are utterly convincing, so much so that I was not sure if they were based on a real building or not, and the fire and explosion effects look compellingly real. There is also some superb stunt work, with people rolling around on fire or being tossed through the air by explosions.

I whole-heartedly recommend this film. It is exciting but also quite realistic and sensitive in its depiction of events, keeping sensationalism and saccharine sentimentality to a minimum. I was rooting for the characters and their relationships are well defined. The movie is a work of fiction but you are reminded of the incredible bravery not only of those in the emergency services, but also of normal people who overcome their fears and summon the courage to help others.

Special features on the disc include:

  • Making of (10 mins)
  • CGI - making of (11 mins)
  • Deleted scenes


The first featurette has some entertaining outtakes, and the CGI one breaks down the impressive CGI and other effects work on a few key scenes.

“The Tower” (2012) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Entertainment One. The main feature has a running time of 117 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £9.99, or less from

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