December 14, 2013

The Tower: The Architecture of Laughter and Disaster

In reality, The Tower isn't about a single skyscraper going up in flames. It's about two skyscapers: one damaged when a too-close helicopter -- crassly sprinkling artificial snow -- collides into it; the other threatened by the domino effect should the first towering inferno fall. For obvious reasons, the title can't play up the conflagration of two twin towers. Not on this side of the Pacific anyway, where the World Trade Center attack of 2001 remains a national tragedy. Plus, the parallels are pretty problematic when you consider how hilarious The Tower often is. Sometimes the humor is intentional: two lovebirds spitting out fire extinguisher foam, a lowly maid complaining of a rich lady's dog poop. Most times, the jokes are unintentional: the pregnant lady (Min Jeong) prying open an elevator; a self-centered hotel exec spiraling down to his death. Those last two items might not sound funny but when you see them, believe me, you'll realize they are.

And what else is there to do but laugh at the collective struggle in writer-director Kim Ji-hoon's deliriously nutty disaster pic? You know from the beginning that the Head of Facilities (Kim Sang-kyung), his waterworks-of-tears daughter (Jo Min-ah), and the lady in the white pantsuit (Son Ye-jin) are going to end up a happy family at the end. You also know that the martyr of a squad captain (Sol Kyung-gu) is going to sacrifice his life to save others, although when and how that happens is constantly delayed. Maybe you're not sure whether the lowly maid and her college-going son will be reunited. All said, tension is not The Tower's strong point. What the movie has in its favor is some beautiful cinematography of computer generated flames, explosions, smoke clouds, and even the towers themselves which sparkle like giant pieces of jewelry. I also would like to say I got a kick out of Kim In-kwon who plays the cocky little firefighter who I personally hope gets promoted and forces his compatriots to get matching mohawks once the self-sacrificing captain bites the CGI dust.

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