Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Sometimes, my friends, you just have to let it go.  Release yourself to the moment.  Most of us watch a lot of movies and sometimes we can be overly critical of these movies for whatever reason, but there comes a time when you just have to let it go and just enjoy whatever movie for what it is.  Director Kim Ji Hoon's film 'The Tower' is that movie for me.  Sure, it's a little ridiculous, has the occasional plot hole, perhaps a touch too melodramatic in some spots but eventually I just gave in to the Strapping Hero, the Tragic Hero, the Pretty Girl and the Cute Kid and just went with it, and my day was all the better for it.  We need movies like this.  '12 Years a Slave' is one of the best films I've ever seen, but I'm not trying to watch that every day.  'The Tower' is big time entertainment that only asks you to suspend belief for a couple of hours and have a good time doing it.

It's Christmas Eve at the Sky Towers, a marvel of human engineering if ever there was one, and we will spend the first twenty to thirty minutes getting know our characters about to be placed in an impossible situation.  Our strapping hero is Dae Ho (Kim Sang Kyung) who is the head of security and maintenance.  Dae Ho is the father of absolutely the most adorable and cutest kid you will ever want to see, the kind that really only exist in movies since even those of us with kids know that in reality, they really aren't that consistently cute.  Dae Ho is also hopelessly smitten with the lovely Yung Hee (Son Ye Jin) who manages the restaurant in the building.  Dae Ho got the chance to stand up for Yung Hee during a small kitchen fire when he pointed out to their jerk of a boss that the ventilation is poor, and that the sprinklers don't work, which led to further investigations which unearthed all kinds of problems with this luxury skyscraper.

Still, there's a big Christmas party being thrown by the ice cold chairman of this venture, one which involves a flying snow machine… just go with it… and one crashed helicopter later, the Sky Towers are in flames and folks are dying en masse.
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The fire department is dispatched to the scene, but quite honestly, the only fireman we are really concerned with is the ridiculously hardcore, totally fearless, insanely intelligent and completely fatalistic Chief Young Ki (Sol Kyung Gu) who will do everything in his power, despite the fact it's his day off, to save as many people as he can.  Every step of the way people will tell Chief Sol 'he can't' but he will say 'Yes We Can'… and he will make a way, while doing his best to die an honorable death in the process.

The situation for our survivors is about as bad as it gets.  Fire all around, structure collapsing, death is everywhere, and the worst part is that due to the surrounding areas being in grave danger, the building that they are in needs to be strategically demolished.  That means a clock ticking down to triple zero.  It can't get much worse than that. 

Korean Towering Inferno meets Korean Daylight meets Korean Backdraft, so we can readily admit that 'The Tower' might be a little bit derivative, but what can you do?  You set a skyscraper on fire people are going to immediately think Towering Inferno.  You put a terrorist in that building, people are going to immediately think Die Hard. Not much anyone can do to change that.  What you can do, however, is try to make this derivative movie of yours as entertaining as humanly possible, and also try to make it move fast enough so that as the silliness mounts, there just isn't all that much time to think about all of that.   I think director Kim Ji-Hoon accomplished just that task with 'The Tower'.  

Admittedly, things are a little slow in getting started, but we have that silly thing called 'Character Development' we have to get out of the way, so that when these fine people start burning to death, or having buildings fall on them, theoretically it should mean a little something.  Then we have a little foreshadowing to deal with, so that we know nothing that's supposed to work won't work, and then it is on!

The pyrotechnic effects in this movie are really impressive.  Our human stars in this movie are good, but the true star is the burning tower and all of the explosions and collapsing columns and shattering glass.  The building is the villain, and it's a darned good one.  Not to say that I wasn't concerned with our characters and their well-being, because the performances were solid, and the father / daughter relationship was a pivotal one… the boyfriend / girlfriend… not so much… but they did take a back seat to the character of Chief Young Ki and his amazing efforts to save everybody and his tireless quest to die a good death.  It's a good thing this guy eschewed his day off to help with this fire, for there wasn't a problem my man couldn't solve, because if not for him there would be far fewer attractive fictional Koreans walking around Seoul today. 

I enjoyed 'The Tower' as it gave me a lot of the same thrills I got from 'Towering Inferno', at least from what I remember from back in the '70's,  and 'Backdraft' from the 80's, all wrapped around modern technology which created one explosive, hyper charged, entertaining movie.
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