Tower Block Blu-ray Review
Directed by James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson
Written by James Moran
2012, Region A, 88 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on July 2nd, 2013
Sheridan Smith as Becky
Jack O'Connell as Kurtis
Russell Tovery as Paul
Ralph Brown as Neville
Jill Baker as Violet
Harry McEntire as Daniel
Julie Graham as Carol
Montserrat Lombard as Jenny
Large apartment complexes called Tower Blocks began springing up all over England after World War II, each given a pleasant sounding name with the promise to residents of a bright future. Over the following decades these structures fell out of favor and became havens for criminal activity and other negative elements. There has been a movement recently to bring down the towers, and residents have steadily been relocating. Tower 31 (aka Serenity House) has only a handful of tenants remaining and they all live on the top floor with the lower levels now locked off and empty. These holdouts know it will soon be time to move on, but for one reason or another continue to stick around.
Crime continues to flourish in the neighborhood and one night a young man seeks refuge in Tower 31, but none of the locals will answer his calls for help, much less open their doors. Two masked thugs chase him into the main hallway and savagely beat him. Becky watches from her apartment until she can no longer tolerate the excessive violence and attempts to intervene. She is met with a few brutal blows for her efforts before the attackers run away leaving her injured and the original victim worse. When the police finally arrive, there are no witnesses to the crimes and even Becky refuses to cooperate.
Three months later, the complex comes under attack by an unseen maniac killing the remaining people in the building, seemingly at random. The terrified men, women and children are not safe in their apartments and are forced to gather in the hallway. There are several plans for escape, but each attempt draws the wrath of the madman. Death lurks in almost every location and if anyone is to survive this attack they will need to set aside their petty differences and work together. What follows is a nicely-paced and frequently engaging exercise in suspense that works surprisingly well, especially for audiences without prior knowledge of the killer's tactics.
Tower Block is a decent thriller from first time directors Ronnie Thompson and James Nunn. Working from a script by James Moran (Severance), the two create a real-world nightmare filled with many satisfying twists and turns that keep viewers engaged in the material. The finale is a bit weak when everything is revealed, but this is only a minor complaint due to the unnecessary convenience of keeping things tidy. The murderer's identity would be far more haunting if left unrevealed. Moran describes an alternate resolution in his commentary track that is not any more satisfying, so the one included in the finished film wins by default.
The film benefits greatly from the ensemble cast led by Sheridan Smith (Quartet) as Becky, the reluctant leader of the group who transforms from another passive observer to an active participant determined to fight for survival and protect her neighbors along the way. Jack O'Connell (Eden Lake) is equally strong as Kurtis, the bully forced to deal with his own cowardice and lack of conscience. His ability to depict a bit of sympathy in the character while maintaining a general level of shithead-above-all-else behavior is awesome. Russell Tovey (The History Boys) and Ralph Brown (Stoker) offer a needed sense of gravity to a few key set pieces, providing an earnestness to the material that makes both characters instantly likeable.
This is a nice surprise of a thriller that moves at a decent clip and keeps elevating the tension until the minor stumble at the finish line. The script features an unexpectedly well-developed group of characters that are generally absent from low-budget cinema, ones who consider their options and weigh the consequences on the group before taking action. Thompson and Nunn manage to transform a simple hallway into a location packed with danger and anxiety in an impressive debut that leaves me eager to see what they attempt for their next feature.
Video and Audio:
Tower Block is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and receives a subtle yet solid transfer that provides plenty of fine object detail, particularly in close-ups. Colors are de-saturated overall but flesh tones remain natural and even. Contrast and black levels are solid throughout the numerous shadow-filled hallway sequences and are nicely represented without smearing or loss of clarity.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is a well balanced mix that serves this dialogue-centric film quite well and keeps overlapping conversations clear and free from distortion. The more intense scenes benefit from a nice use of the surround channels and bass levels kick in for occasional support. English subtitles are provided.
Writer James Moran delivers a fairly respectable audio commentary that is filled with anecdotes from both the production and his writing process. Early in, he challenges some reports of confusion from audiences and critics before slipping into an occasional bout of rambling. The track is sufficient but would benefit from a moderator.
Next up is a collection of behind-the-scenes footage mixed with interviews with assorted members of the cast and crew. Everyone appears to be having a fun time and at just over six minutes in length, the piece does not overstay its welcome.
The original theatrical trailer rounds out the special features on this disc.