Review: The Tower (2013)

The Tower



Ji-hoon Kim


Sang-don Kim


121 min.


Kyung-gu Sol, Ye-jin Son, Sang-kyung Kim, In-kwon Kim, Sung-kee Ahn, Jae-ho Song, Ju-shil Lee, Han-wi Lee, Tae-won Kwon, Guk-Hyang Jeon, In-gi Jeong, In-Pyo Cha, Bae-soo Jeon, Jun-seo Park, Kim Sung-oh, Min-Young Park, Lee Joo-ha, Ji-han Do

MPAA Rating

Not Rated

Buy on DVD/Blu-ray

Source Material


South Korea’s robust film community has recently generated some of cinema’s most invigorating films. The Tower may not be as refreshing as a film like Snowpiercer or The Host (or the more recent and mainstream Parasite), but for fans of 1970’s American disaster cinema, it’s a thrilling treat.

The story surrounds a pair of fictional towers in downtown Seoul. Tower Sky seeks only the wealthiest of clientele and caters to their every whim. However, shortcuts and design flaws have created a structure that, under the right impetus, could become a giant death trap. A sprinkler system that doesn’t work the entire length of the building, powerful updrafts between the two towers and weakened concrete support structures combine to form the foundation of destruction, mayhem, and plenty of threats to human life.

Inspired by Irwin Allen’s disaster classic The Towering Inferno, director Kim Ji-hoon has tweaked the concept just enough to create a number of thrilling new adventures while adhering to the formula that made Allen’s films so darned exciting.

Allen’s disaster flick was wildly popular at the time, earning a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. The Tower wasn’t so lucky, not even within South Korea. While it became the first film to surpass 5 million admissions, its awards recognition was almost non-existent.

Regardless, it’s an entertaining thriller, much like Allen’s film. The characters struggle to find their way to safety with some rich and some poor either becoming heroes or victims, with countless suggested and visualized deaths as the self-contained glass tower slowly becomes consumed in flame.

None of the actors stand out particularly well with everyone performing admirably. While the cast of the film aren’t major names in American cinema, they are familiar to Korean audiences, which gives it another appropriate connection to its 1974 inspiration.

The film is a taut, adventure that should please audiences who are fans of disaster films. It’s an interesting take on a subgenre of the action film that has been incredibly popular in the U.S. It appears international audiences are likewise enthused about such event films and this checks plenty of boxes for appreciation.

The stunning architectural design was crafted with a mixture of CGI and models while several sets were constructed to take place throughout the tower itself, giving it a lived-in feeling similar to that of Towering Inferno. The effects are solid and the editing tight and thrilling.

The Tower might face a language barrier issue with American audiences, but anyone who’s enjoyed a disaster film or several should find a lot of visual similarity, making it a touch more appealing than were it more exaggerated as some output from Korea has been in the past.

Review Written

October 26, 2020

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