Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Tower Block (2012)

A simple, effective premise. If you don't mess up the other aspects of a movie then, sometimes, that's all you need. And Tower Block certainly has that. The characters, thanks to a solid script by James Moran, are all pretty good, and this thriller cuts to the chase quickly, proving to be an effective, taut, piece of work.

It all starts off with a quick description of what tower blocks once were, and what many have now become. They were a great solution to the housing problem decades ago, but now have been left to rot away, no longer the vertical suburbs full of friendly neighbours. Then viewers are shown a young man being chased. He's beaten. A young woman (Becky, played by Sheridan Smith) who comes out to help is also beaten, but not as badly. Fast forward to some time later. The police visit the tower block, and are hoping to find anyone who can help them solve the murder of the young man. There aren't many people left, as many have been rehoused and only the top floor is still occupied. Nobody is talking. Nobody wants to get involved, to risk getting themselves in trouble with the wrong people. But they can't avoid trouble when a sniper decides to trap them on their floor, and pick them off whenever he gets a clean shot.

Directed by James Nunn and Ronnie Thomson, Tower Block gets so much right that it's easy to forget any flaws/potential plotholes. Unlike Comedown or Citadel, to name two other movies that tried to effectively utilise a tower block setting, this actually provides some thrills while also feeling grounded in something coming close to reality.

The cast and characters work really well. Smith makes for a likable lead, she's tough and believable, and hasn't let the tower block life grind her down. Ralph Brown and Jill Baker are an elderly couple who quickly show what they're made of, Julie Graham is a mother almost always thinking of her son, played by Harry McEntire, first, and Russell Tovey plays a young man who has spent too much time trying to escape into a bottle of booze. Montserrat Lombard is stuck playing a terrible mother, and Jack O'Connell adds yet another bad boy role to his filmography, playing a man who takes protection money from the tenants without offering any actual protection, until he ends up working with them all to stay alive.

The script certainly gives everyone a great launchpad to start from, making the characters easily identifiable, while also rounding them out as the situation unfolds. While it fair rattles along for a lot of the runtime, coming in at just under the 90-minute mark, it never feels rushed, and none of the character developments ever feel as if they've just come out of nowhere.

Tower Block is well worth your time, as far as I'm concerned. It's a lean, mean, thrill machine. Or you can just take that sentence and replace it with something that sounds better. There's at least one cracking jump scare, a few good bits of gore, plenty of scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and a satisfying final reel. In other words, it's perfect popcorn entertainment.


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