Tower Block (2012)
The remaining inhabitants of a bleak and run-down tower block live sheltered lives on the top floor of the condemned building. After a fifteen year old boy is beaten to death in the corridor, they choose to turn a blind eye and refuse to speak to the police. Cut to several months later and they find themselves the targets of a mystery sniper who appears to be punishing them for their silence. After shooting dead anyone who enters into their sights, the sniper also pins them down to the top floor by blocking their only obvious escape route and scrambling their phone lines. The survivors, who barely seem to interact with one another at all before the onslaught, must band together to try and figure out a way past the unrelenting killer.
It’s a very simple yet interesting concept movie and one which rookie directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson mine for some occasional moments of genuine tension. The claustrophobic surroundings and stark, unwelcoming nature of the tower block certainly adds to the films low-fi and scuzzy aesthetic . It’s a stripped down and brutally realistic drama with moments of bloody violence thrown in for good measure.
There are a couple of strong performances from Sheridan Smith as Becky, the young woman who becomes de factor leader of the survivors, and especially Jack O’Connell as resident thug Kurtis. Kurtis is a genuinely interesting character who starts out as a thoughtless yob extorting his fellow tenants for ‘protection’ money but ultimately achieves some redemption as he begins to work alongside his neighbours.
It’s not a film that is without its faults however. The rest of the cast all fall into very distinct stereotypes and struggle to make much of a lasting impact. The usually excellent Russell Tovey has an extremely thinly written role which could easily have been done away with all together. Other than Becky and Kurtis in fact, the rest of the cast become largely interchangeable and irrelevant other than providing sniper fodder for the lurking assassin.
The ending as well feels a little weak after the strong set-up in the opening third of the movie. Not only does the tension get deflated somewhat by the drawn out and plodding finale, but the revelation behind who the sniper really is out of the Scooby-Doo playbook. Not only in terms of the mask-pulling-off reveal, but also due to the fact that you’re only shown a handful of other people to guess their identity from. The process of elimination leads you to a somewhat inevitable conclusion. The justification given for the sniper’s action is also a little flimsy and doesn’t really feel like a satisfying way to wrap matters up.
The set-up and general concept is a neat one and does generate a genuinely anxious atmosphere for a large part of the movie, but the film as a whole does suffer from the lacklustre ending. It’s certainly well worth a watch though, and it shows that the fledgling directors certainly have a keen eye for a tense set up.
Directors: James Nunn, Ronnie Thompson
Stars: Sheridan Smith, Jack O’Connell, Ralph Brown
Runtime: 90 min