Blu-ray Review: Tower Block

Tower Block
Blu-ray | DVD
Directed by James Nunn, Ronnie Thompson
Written by James Moran
Starring Sheridan Smith, Jack O’Connell, Ralph Brown, Russell Tovey
Shout! Factory
Release Date: July 2, 2013

In Tower Block, it has been three months since a young teenager was beaten to death in a rundown apartment block building on the outskirts of London, with none of the few remaining tenants offering any eyewitness accounts to the police. Now, the apartment is set for demolition and the last of those tenants, who all live on the top floor, are refusing to vacate. And on this Saturday morning, that decision may cost them all their lives.

As the sun rises on the tower, an unknown assailant begins killing all the tenants with a high powered sniper rifle. Those that survive the first wave of attacks begin a series of desperate plans to get out of the building, however with each attempt they find that their attacker has anticipated that move and blocked their path, or worse. As the survivors’ numbers dwindle will they ever discover just who, and more importantly why, they have been targeted for extermination?

James Moran, best known for his debut screenplay for Severance, returns with another extremely tight and fast-paced story that doesn’t let up once the terrorizing begins. Moran provides just enough exposure to the characters at the beginning of the story to allow us to connect with them, not necessarily who they are, but their archetype at the very least. From the single young woman doomed to become the reluctant leader, to the retired couple, the alcoholic, the irresponsible mother and the hoodlums, they are all here. Moran sets up each character well enough that we care about them as they are lined up in the crosshairs.

Moran’s script and setup is fairly intelligent, especially once the attack begins. Moran, who goes into more detail on this mindset in the included audio commentary, makes some very logical decisions as to what the attacker would need to do in order to keep the intended victims confined to the building. There is not a single stupid decision or action that was taken by the characters to force the story forward. Rash and impulsive, perhaps, but never stupid.

Bringing Moran’s intense thriller to the screen are co-directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson, both of whom make their feature-length directorial debut with Tower Block. Despite their relative inexperience, they put forth a great effort to bring the story to life. Their concentration on pacing and edits really emphasize the anything-can-happen-at-any-moment tension, and after we get a feel for their verse-chorus structure, you can just tell when something is about to happen. It’s just a question of to whom and how.

Their camera work and direction brings the apartment building to life, blemishes and all. It recollects, if only in location, the claustrophobia and architectural repetitiveness found in recent films Dredd and The Raid: Redemption which also used apartment high rises as their main set piece. The film is bathed in harsh florescent lights and eerie blue tinges, giving the building a very uninviting presence.

On the character side, the entire cast puts in very strong performances all around that really helps to sell the situation. Even with their extremely truncated introductions to the audience, each character somehow manages to make us care. Several sequences are heart wrenching to watch throughout and that is thanks to these performances. You genuinely want these characters to survive their ordeal, and hope that the next plan they concoct will be the one that’s a success.

Tower Block is a really fun and intense movie that uses its brisk 90 minutes to its full potential. It has a very satisfying blend suspense and action and even pulls in some slasher horror elements drawing on the unknown killer angle. Look past the somewhat generic action-feeling title and definitely check this one out.

Shout Factory brings Tower Block from the UK to America on Blu-Ray and features an anamorphic widescreen presentation, audio commentary from James Moran (which is a cool listen, especially for those with more than a passing interest in film production), behind the scenes interviews and the original trailer.


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