With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

ACF 1767: THE TOWER opens in several North American cities today

Poster for The Tower with KIM Sang-kyung as LEE Dae-ho

THE TOWER, director KIM Ji-hoon's blockbuster hit that scored the second best opening in Korean Cinema history this past December, opens today, Friday, January 11, 2013, in several cities in North America. The film, which has been playing in Los Angeles since December 25th, can now be seen in Las Vegas, San Diego, Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Vancouver, Toronto, Honolulu, and Irvine. Info about specific theaters and links to buy tickets can be found at the film’s official website, http://www.thetowermovie2013.com/. All screenings are in Korean with English subtitles.

Though I never saw THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974), I know enough about it to be confident in saying that THE TOWER is a variation on that film, with an element of the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center thrown in. Here, however, the conflagration is not the result of faulty wiring or a terrorist attack, but rather due to a design flaw by, and the hubris and connections of, the Chairman of Tower Sky. This 108 story skyscraper consists of twin towers, one with a River View and the other with a City View, that are conjoined by a Sky Bridge at level 70, roughly 2/3rds of way to the top of the buildings. Tower Sky is the most luxurious apartment complex in Korea, with shops, restaurants and all the other amenities needed to satisfy the extremely wealthy people who live there.

LEE's daughter Ha-na with SEO Yoon-hee (actress SON Ye-jin)

The film has three primary characters. LEE Dae-ho (KIM Sang-kyung) is Tower Sky’s conscientious facility manager, the widowed father of a precocious young daughter, Ha-na. Though he has difficulty expressing them, he has strong feelings for SEO Yoon-hee (SON Ye-jin), the facility’s restaurant manager, who has similar feelings for him. When tragedy strikes during Christmas Eve festivities, Dae-ho fights his way to rejoin Yoon-hee and Ha-na in order to save them. Also joining the rescue efforts is KANG Young-kee (SUL Kyung-gu), an experienced firefighter from the Yeoudio Fire Station. Young-kee was to have had the night off to be with his wife, but he can’t neglect the call of duty.

The disaster film genre calls for a sizeable cast consisting of a wide variety of people, and THE TOWER fulfills that requirement most admirably. There’s the fire fighter sergeant, the Fire Chief, and the Fire Commissioner; a kitchen worker and the receptionist he’s in love with; two elderly residents who are just beginning a relationship in their golden years; a devout Christian who has won a lottery contest; a politician and his arrogant wife; and so forth.

Firefighter KANG Young-kee (actor SUL Kyung-gu)

While it’s a given that certain particular characters must survive, the film did a terrific job confounding this viewer’s expectations. Let’s just say that some “good” people make it, some don’t, and the same is true for “bad” characters. The great thing is that with a few strokes, director KIM fleshes out these supporting roles so well that what happens to them, for good or for ill and regardless of their personal character, matters. I found myself so glad when “good” people made it and “bad” ones didn’t, and saddened when the opposite occurred.

Unfortunately I haven’t found who deserves the credit for the editing, which is top-drawer. According to director KIM, there are 3,000 cuts in the film, 1,700 of which use CGI either in full or in part. The quality of the special effects, whether real, physical, or computer generated, is as good as any you’ll find in any film. Quite frankly, I’m already looking forward to the inevitable DVD. Hopefully, CJ Entertainment, the film’s distributor, will be coming out with a two-disc special edition. I can’t wait to see lots of special features about how this film was made.

But that’s getting ahead of myself and of the point of this review, which is to tell you that this film is terrific entertainment, an action-packed drama packed with heartfelt human emotion. Don’t think about just waiting for the DVD; see THE TOWER now if you can. While the screener I watched on my computer was totally engrossing, I can’t imagine the film being anything less than a total knockout at a theatrical screening.

[Note: This review originally appeared, in slightly different form, at 24Framespersecond.]

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