The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Tower Block

Hollywood is supposedly the purveyor of the most kick-ass action movies in the world, but the truth is that the best films in the genre having been coming from other countries in the last few years. The Raid: Redemption and Attack the Block are good examples, as is Britain's Tower Block, now on DVD from Shout Factory. Whereas too many action movies from our shores insist on getting bigger and more grandiose as they go on, this one stays tight and focused. You'll be in suspense the entire time.

Tower Block is set in a high-rise apartment building that is scheduled to be demolished. The few remaining residents all live on the same floor where, a year earlier, a young man was beaten to death. What begins as an ordinary day turns terrifying when an unseen sniper starts shooting into the apartments. (Believe me, you will jump when the first bullet is fired.) Everyone gathers in the hallway, assuming escape is possible; however, the sniper has also booby-trapped the building, making sure no one can leave or call for help. A young woman named Becky (Sheridan Smith) finds herself stepping up as a leader, while street punk Kurtis (Jack O'Connell) proves to be a constant instigator. As the group tries various techniques of getting out, their numbers begin to dwindle.

The true beauty of Tower Block is that it maintains plausibility. I've grown to despise the way so many action films and thrillers start off with a good premise, then proceed to launch it right over the top, dispensing with internal logic. Things are scarier when we believe they're possible. (It's why Die Hard is such a great film and A Good Day to Die Hard is a monumental piece of crap.) Tower Block exaggerates just enough to create a suspenseful scenario, but never a drop more. Tension is built immediately and then increased exponentially as the situation grows more dire for the characters. The danger feels real, as do the stakes.

It helps that Becky is smart. She continually improvises, based on new information the group figures out. When one idea is foiled, she comes up with another. Having an intelligent heroine is great, and Sheridan Smith expertly conveys the idea that Becky is as surprised to find herself in a leadership role as everyone else is. Jack O'Connell also delivers a strong performance, portraying a guy who insists on making trouble even when there's already too much trouble to begin with. The actor makes Kurtis one of those people who almost compulsively rile others up. He proves such a loose cannon that his very existence in the building makes an already dangerous situation even more volatile.

Tower Block gets just about everything right. It is an expertly crafted thriller with a mastery of tension-building techniques. Writer James Moran and directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson know what they're doing. If you're a fan of the genre, Tower Block is a picture you must see right now.

( 1/2 out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

The Tower Block Blu-Ray contains audio commentary from the filmmakers, a behind-the-scenes interview segment with the cast, and the theatrical trailer. For more information, please visit the Shout Factory website.

Tower Block is unrated but contains graphic violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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