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Film / The Tower

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The Tower (or Tae-wo) is a 2012 Korean Spiritual Successor to The Towering Inferno.

The setting is the fictional Tower Sky, the tallest buildings in the world, modeled after the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, home to some of the wealthiest people in Seoul and cutting-edge in both technology and luxury. To celebrate Christmas, a VIP party is held in the "Sky garden" of the tower overlooking the river. Dae-ho, the manager of the building and single father, is forced to cancel plans with his daughter Ha-na to coordinate the event. However, Yoon-hee, the food mall manager (with a secret crush on Dae-ho), offers to babysit Ha-na during the party. Meanwhile, Kang Young-ki, the legendary fire captain of Yoido Station, has at the urging of Sergeant Oh Byung-Man and the rest of the crew, finally promised his first Christmas date night to his long suffering wife, while the station's new probationary fightfighter gets the sort of hazing that shows some things are universal the world over. During the party, it is discovered that the exterior pipes in the building have frozen over, rendering the sprinklers above the 60th floor inoperable. The party is in full swing when a fleet of helicopters fly overhead with snow-making machines, giving the building's VIPs a white Christmas, indoors!


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Not to be confused with The Tower trope.

The Tower features examples of:

  • Artistic License – Physics: Quite a bit less then The Towering Inferno. The fire spreads the way you'd expect a fire to spread in such a building, and the inevitable Water Tower Down gambit only buys minutes. Plus, during such an intense fire, the structural integrity of the tower quickly becomes compromised - leading to the decision to bring the burning tower down with a controlled detonation, to prevent it from taking the other tower with it and wiping out half of downtown Seoul...
    • Still, the actual fire suppression in the movie is grounded much more in Rule of Cool than anything like reality.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Averted thoroughly and horribly in the case of the elevator full of panicking people...
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: The Fire Commissioner. He has a VIP list and they get rescue priority over all other residents, seriously hampering firefighting efforts. Captain Kang finally tells him what to do with his priority rescue list.
  • Darker and Edgier: To The Towering Inferno, which already was a really dark movie to begin with. The arc of the disaster is very similar to 9/11, though the crash that starts the fire in the movie is purely accidental.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Typical for a disaster movie, though most of the main protagonists do survive.
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  • Dwindling Party: As expected in a disaster movie, the protagonists get thinned at every turn, often in nightmare-inducing ways.
  • Elevator Failure: An elevator gets trapped on a fire floor, quickly illustrating why you don't take elevators in a fire. Later, the protagonists deliberately induce an Elevator Failure to quickly get down past the fire floors.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Captain Kang Young-ki. The moment you see the photo of his wife, you just know he won't make it out of the Tower Sky fire alive.
  • Foreshadowing: Remember those sprinklers with frozen pipes? They sure would have come in handy when a helicopter crashes into the 68th floor...
    • The Skybridge gets several loving camera flybys before the fire. Guess what happens when our protagonists try to cross it during the fire?
    • Young-ki's death isn't just telegraphed - it's shouted from the rooftops. The Fatal Family Photo, the holiday cake for his wife, refusing the offer of his station to go home before they dispatch to Tower Sky...
  • Hellish Copter: A helicopter crash starts the fire. Unlike The Towering Inferno, though, the chopper evac from the neighboring building goes without incident.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Young-ki stays behind to set off the rainwater tank bombs, washing the rest of the protagonists out to the river just before the River Tower is collapsed.
  • Hope Spot: The captain, his probie, and the last survivors have found a way out of the building before it's supposed to be brought down. - setting bombs on the rainwater tanks, to be washed into the nearby river. Then a falling elevator takes out the remote detonator, forcing him to stay behind to blow the tanks.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Played absolutely straight in the case of Ha-na. Suggested, though, that there are many other kids in the burning tower, though whether they escape or not is left to the viewer.
  • Jerkass: The wealthy lady with her Lhasa Apso; dog poop at the party? Someone else can clean it up! Safe far from the fire? She starts screaming about her baby missing! Young-ki gives her the contempt she deserves, but she does survive the fire.
  • Karma Houdini: The building owner, who practically caused the accident by ignoring the glaring safety concerns with the sprinklers and insisting on the helicopters despite the dangerous updrafts. There are numerous other architectural faults with the building that are implied to be his doing, as well. Later on, he tries to save the building by closing the fire doors, despite knowing that people would be trapped inside. He receives no comeuppance at all in the movie, other than the destruction of his prized tower (and presumably the huge financial loss that goes along with it).
    • To a lesser extent, the Fire Commissioner and the Rich Bitch.
  • Made of Iron: Sergeant Oh survives a lot of near-fatal events.
  • Man on Fire: This movie is made of this trope, but it gets particularly horrifying when - just like with the World Trade Center towers - people start getting blown out of the building, on fire, raining down on the crowd below.
  • Melodrama: As only the Koreans can do it.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The group of Christians, found by Sergeant Oh after he gets seperated from the other firemen, noisily praying at every turn. Their prayers have the most uncanny way of coming true, though!
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: More then being a remake of The Towering Inferno, this movie was almost a note for note reproduction of 9/11, with all the Nightmare Fuel that implies. The only real differences was that the crash was accidental, and only one of the towers caught fire.
  • Red Herring: It's mentioned repeatedly that the kitchen has far too many stoves and far too little sprinkler coverage; at one point a chef even starts a fire with a wok, triggering an alarm at Yoido. That fire is quickly extinguished; the real source of the disaster is a crashing helicopter.
  • Serial Escalation: Happens with incredible speed, unlike The Towering Inferno; pretty soon the protagonists don't just have to contend with the fire, but the building literally crumbling around them.
  • Shout-Out: Many to The Towering Inferno, which this is a Spiritual Successor to.
    • For example, the outside Scenic Elevator, which people are caught in during the fire. They get out safely though.
    • The people rushing the elevators. They come to a horrible end, though the mechanism is even worse then before.
    • The Water Tower Down gambit. This time it only buys the protagonists minutes, slowing but not stopping the collapse of the River Tower.
  • Too Dumb to Live: This being a disaster movie, there's plenty of examples, but the crowner has to be the helicopter pilot; he gets caught in a spiraling updraft, which starts the snow machine swinging - and rather then cut the load (and maybe injure or kill a few on the ground) he rides that load right into the building, touching off the inferno and ending up killing hundreds, including himself and his crew.


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