Remember how you felt when you saw a great action/disaster film like "Armageddon" for the first time? The action, the romance, the over-the-top special effects and emotion of the events took you on a two-hour accelerator-mashed-to-the-floor rollercoaster ride that left you worn out. Intellectually, you wanted to scoff at the crass moviemaking that created the film. And yet, you couldn't wait to see it one more time.
If you want to recreate a bit of that adreneline rush this weekend, then let me recommend you check out the 2012 South Korean disaster thriller "The Tower." It has jaw-dropping special effects, a really solid script and a cast chemistry so smooth you'll almost forget the movie is captioned for an English-speaking audience.
"The Tower" is about a horrific fire that breaks out in luxury downtown Seoul twin skyscrapers on Christmas Eve. Director Kim Ji-hoon (who previously directed "Sector 7") said in interviews he gave at the time that he was inspired by the classic action film "The Towering Inferno." You can certainly see the influences in this film, but J-Hoon takes that 1970s story and amps it up to 11. The last 90 minutes of the movie is basically non-stop action and there are truly spectacular scenes along the way.
It reportedly took nearly two years to do the effects work on the movie and it's a very believable claim based on what you'll see on screen. There are some extraordinary camera shots that I have never seen in any other similar film. From a collapsing all-glass walkway to crowded corridors filled with explosions to a group's efforts to escape the flames by using a window-washing platform, the pivotal moments come faster than you can easily keep track. The firefighting scenes are often hair-raising and like all good action films, a lot of very nice people die along the way.
There are a couple of very Korean moments in the film. Like most Asian-market motion pictures, there is a smattering of over-the-top humor throughout the film and those scenes might be a bit jarring to an American audience. And unlike American films, there is also the subplot of the class differences in Korean society. One such moment is when the Fire Commissioner orders the firemen to rescue the building's VIPs first, no matter who might be in more immediate danger.
Most action films don't hold up well on a small screen, but "The Tower" works just fine on television. Although seeing it did make me wish I could see it in a darkened theater, because this is one film that you could really get lost in as you watch it.
This is the best action film I have seen in a very, very long time.
Click here to watch "The Tower."