Film review: The Tower

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 5:45am

Starring: Sol Kyung-gu, Son Ye-jin, Kim Sang-kyung, Kim In-kwon, Do Ji-han
Director: Kim Ji-hoon
Category: IIB (Korean)

In 2012, K-pop garnered global attention with Psy and his Gangnam Style. But while South Korean movies did well at home last year, they weren't as successful in overseas territories such as Hong Kong. The nation's box office champion, The Thieves, did not crack the top 10 grossing films here, despite including local thespians such as Simon Yam Tat-wah.

However, hopes are high for the latest South Korean blockbuster to come to our shores. A disaster movie with the requisite impressive special effects, The Tower also boasts a large cast headed by acclaimed actor Sol Kyung-gu and popular actress Son Ye-jin.

Kim Ji-hoon's film begins with a widower father (Kim Sang-kyung) promising his young daughter (Jo Min-ah) that it'll be the best Christmas Eve ever, even though he has to go to work that day as the facilities manager of new luxury residential complex Tower Sky. More scenes introducing various characters with parts to play in the upcoming dramatics follow.

Surprisingly, many of them are played for laughs and feature exaggerated acting of the kind one would expect to see more in TV sitcoms than a movie that takes a serious turn around the half hour mark when a helicopter crashes into one of the complex's two towers and sets the building ablaze.

Enter fire captain Kang Young-kee (Sol Kyung-gu), who was due to take the evening off to spend time with his long-suffering wife, but when the alarm bells start ringing, he can't resist the call of duty and joins his men in rushing to Tower Sky to help put out the inferno and rescue the many people - including restaurant manager Seo Yoon-hee (Son Ye-jin) - trapped inside.

Tension mounts as the burning edifice's many structural problems make the fireman's tasks all the more difficult. A lot happens - so quickly as well as spectacularly - in The Tower that it's difficult to feel an emotional connection with many of its characters whose limited screen time makes them one-dimensional.

What's clear though is that some are in the picture for the audience to root for, while others show how random and cruel fate can be, while still others are there to provide comic relief in the face of the unfolding tragedy.

These tonal shifts, sudden at times, might prove disconcerting for some. But even more disturbing may be that certain scenes will trigger memories of what happened to the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. But those for whom neither of these elements are a problem should find The Tower to make for a sufficiently entertaining watch.

The Tower opens today