is a Christmas movie, just like Die Hard,
but if you think the Nakatomi Plaza’s office party was a blast, you should see
how they celebrate at the exclusive Tower Sky condo complex. Fire Captain Kang
Young-ki and his men will also be invited. Kim Ji-hoon gets his Irwin Allen on
in The Tower (trailer here), which screens this
week as part of the Washington, DC Korean Cultural Center’s monthly K-Cinema series.
Sky consists of two twin skyscrapers, making certain face-palmingly awkward
parallels to the World Trade Center unavoidable. Perhaps the two towers were an
attempt by screenwriters Kim Sang-don and Heo Jun-seok to differentiate the film
from its transparent inspiration, The
Towering Inferno. Regardless, it is something you just have to get past.
Fortunately, Kim Ji-hoon takes his time, introducing us to the appealing
central characters: Lee Dae-ho the operations manager for Tower Sky, his
cherubic daughter Ha-na, and Seo Yoon-hee, the buildings’ food services
director, whom he has long carried a torch.
the Christmas party, Lee warned the management too much water had been diverted
from the sprinkler system. Seo subsequently alerted them the restaurants had insufficient
ventilation. Someone also vaguely cautioned about possible updrafts when the
helicopters were scheduled to drop the man-made snow. Of course, you can add
these things together and get a massive skyscraper inferno, which is exactly
what happens. Eventually, Lee will join forces with Kang, much like Paul Newman
and Steve McQueen, in hopes of saving Ha-na and Seo. Unfortunately, the
developer’s perverse policies and practices cause unnecessary complications at
Ji-hoon sure can crash helicopters and blow-up buildings. The effects look
great, even three years later (almost three decades in SFX time). The fire’s
cause-and-effect details also seem pretty logical, at least during the heat of
the film. Many of the buildings’ residents and staff are essentially stock
characters, but this is the sort of film that can get away with that, for the
sake of saving time. Obviously, the reason to see The Tower is to watch the firefighting dramatics, one hundred
twenty stories in the air.
Kim Sang-kyung, Son Ye-jin, and Jo Min-ah are all earnestly endearing as Lee,
Seo, and Ha-na. They will make a ridiculously cute family if they can survive. On
the plus side, the treatment of Lee Han-wi Elder Kim, the Evangelical lottery winner
evolves in intriguing ways. Initially, he is portrayed in rather stereotypical
terms, but his faith starts to give strength to the skeptical FD Sgt. Oh. Plus,
Ahn Sung-ki adds his usual gravitas as the Yeoido station chief.
edifying are the depictions of the Fire Department Chief and Building Chairman,
which are clearly intended to stoke class resentments. The idea that the Fire
Department would have a “priority” rescue list is utterly laughable. No
government bureaucrat would risk the potential media firestorm to save a few
The Tower is more massive than Backdraft when it comes to blazing
effects. It also delivers plenty of heroism, in a way that will resonate for
firefighter boosters. It stands up alongside Derek Kwok’s As the Lights Go Out, even though Sol Kyung-gu’s moody Kang is no
match for Simon Yam, Hu Jun, or Nick Tse. With its family themes, it is a good
Christmas programming choice, but the mortality rate of name characters will be
way too high for little ones. Recommended for disaster movie fans, The Tower screens this coming Thursday (12/17)
at the Korean Cultural Center in DC.
Labels: Disaster movies, Korean Cinema, Son Ye-jin