Tower, The (Ta-weo) (2012)

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Released 21-Aug-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Disaster Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 116:43 (Case: 121)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kim Ji-hoon

Madman Entertainment
Starring Sol Kyung-gu
Kim Sang-kyung
Son Ye-jin
Oh Byung-man
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Kim Tae-seong

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Seoul, Christmas Eve, 2011. In the 108 story luxurious Sky Tower residential apartment twin towers staff are preparing for the Christmas party extravaganza although security supervisor, widower Lee Dae-ho (Kim Sang-kyung), is more concerned about faults in the towers’ sprinkler system and making an impression on beautiful catering supervisor Seo Yoon-hee (Son Ye-jin). As the party starts, helicopters circle the towers, releasing snow in a spectacular display, but disaster strikes when one helicopter loses control and plunges into a tower, starting off a chain reaction of fire and explosions that trap many of the residents on the upper floors. With the fire fighters struggling with the height of the building and the intense fires, how many can escape before the building is destroyed?

     The Tower (Korean title Ta-weo) is an exciting and spectacular old fashioned disaster movie. For the first 30 minutes the film takes its time to establish the characters and the configuration of the buildings so that when the disaster occurs and the sequences of fire and destruction commence we are never lost in the spectacle alone but care for the individuals on screen. Certainly the conventions of disaster films are observed in the diverse range of characters trapped in the towers; as well as Dae-ho and Yoon-hee there is Dae-ho’s young daughter, a cook and his fiancé, an elderly cleaning lady, a pregnant woman, residents old and young, wealthy and not so rich, an obnoxious supervisor and a group of born again Christians, while the firemen who arrive to fight the fire and try to rescue the residents include veteran Captain Kang Young-ki (Sol Kyung-gu), a loyal sergeant and a rookie fireman. As well, there is bureaucratic interference from the Fire Commissioner, who wants to concentrate on saving the wealthy party-goers rather than those residents without political influence, and the owner of the building who is prepared to sacrifice lives if it will limit the damage to his towers.

     The Tower is very exciting and very spectacular and right from the first helicopter crash into the building the visuals are heart in the mouth stuff, courtesy of cinematographer Kim Young-ho, who also shot the earlier Korean disaster film Haeundae (2009). Filmed digitally using Red One cameras, while The Tower’s budget may be far below Hollywood standards the visual and special effects are all very well done and seldom, except for some fire effects, are less than excellent. There is a bit of something for everyone; fire effects aplenty, parts of the building crashing down, floors collapsing, an elevator speeding down and water tanks exploding, sending a cascade of water through the set. Amid all the sound and fury, there is also time for quieter moments, such as the relationship between Dae-ho and Yoon-hee, and there is a pleasing strand of humour that runs throughout the film. This helps to balance the disaster elements and generally works well, although the slapstick elements involving the cook In-geon may be a bit broad for non-Korean audiences.

     Korean cinema at the moment remains the most interesting and diverse in Asia, producing strong and inventive films in a wide range of genres. Koreans can accomplish gritty crime drama, historical epics, Buddhist meditations, monster films, revenge drama, war, martial arts, eastern / westerns or comedy, so why not a disaster movie of the type Hollywood used to make to follow up from Haeundae? The Tower may not be anything new but it is very entertaining and ticks all the right boxes with a range of likeable characters and spectacular, tense and exciting action.

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Transfer Quality


     The Tower is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print has fine detail in both close-ups and wider shots, while colours throughout are vibrant with some spectacular reds and yellows in the fire effects. Blacks and shadow detail are very good and skin tones natural except for some digital yellowish tinge in some dark scenes. Brightness and contrast is consistent.

     The print did show slight aliasing on building windows in the early fly by scenes but otherwise artefacts and marks were absent. There was quite a lot of shimmering in the closing titles; they probably used most of the space for the fire effects!

     The layer change in the middle of a scene at 62:19 resulted in a very slight pause.

     English subtitles in American English are in an easy to read yellow font and seemed to be timely and error free.

     The print was often spectacular, just right for a disaster movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio choices are Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps and an English dub in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps. I listened to the Korean 5.1 and sampled the English. The English voice acting sounded as flat as usual and the dub is best avoided unless you really cannot read subtitles.

     Dialogue was clear and centred. As expected in a disaster movie, the surrounds and rears are fully utilised for fireworks, the fire and water effects, explosions, crashing building parts and helicopter engines, as well as music and ambient sounds during the quieter moments. The subwoofer added appropriate bass to the fire, explosions, general destruction and the helicopter crash.

     Lip synchronisation in the Korean audio track was fine, but approximate for the English dub.

     The original orchestral score is by Kim Tae-seong. In truth I hardly noticed it once the disaster action commenced.

     The audio track is very good, giving excellent support to the visuals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (1:30)

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Trailers for Doomsday Book (1:03), Ace Attorney (1:36), Wu Dang (1:18) and The Silent War (2:09).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US version of The Tower includes as extras deleted scenes and short featurettes on the cinematography and production design. However, it seems to be in the cropped aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which I think is criminal for a spectacular film like The Tower. The Region 3 Korean release is in the correct aspect ratio, and looks to have included the extras mentioned above. The feature has English subtitles, but I am unable to tell if the extras do.


     The Tower is a return to the type of disaster movies Hollywood used to make. It is exciting with a range of likeable characters and spectacular, tense and exciting non-stop action. The Tower is rated M; it is not bloody or gory and is perfect for a night at home with the popcorn for most of the family.

     The video and audio are very good, trailers are the only extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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