British cinema seems to have a dangerous love affair with the unpretentious high rise flat or sometimes known as the tower block. From Attack The Block, Dredd (a British creation), even The Raid (Indonesian directed by a Welshman) and now Tower Block a British thriller that sees residents of high rise flats find themselves targets of a pissed off sniper. The worrying thing is for myself should I be worried writing this review as I’m currently writing it in…..Tower Block?!!Set in inner city London the last remaining residents of the condemned tower block Serenity House huddled together on the top floor living in fear, not from the prospect of not having a roof over their heads soon but in fear of a ruthless sniper. What does this sniper seek? Retribution, revenge on those who did not aide the young man brutally murdered as the neighbours listened in fear as Becky (Sheridan Smith) attempted to help but find herself beaten up as a result.
The simple plot style of ‘Us versus them’ actually does work well here but also works against Tower Block. Keeping the identity of who the mysterious sniper is and why there doing what their doing does help create a real sense of tension and things do get more visceral when the first bullets get fired. Death is delivered with brutal swift precision delivering fear throughout the floor forcing those who ducked and dived fortunate to get themselves into the block’s corridor. But this sniper means business trapping the residents as all the stairways out have been booby trapped. Despite been a positive the lack of possible suspects actually works against the film as when the big reveal on who the sniper becomes a bit of a damp squib, disappointment, their motives are which is a shame after a decent build up.
After making its cinematic premiere at last summers Film4 London Frightfest it’s left some believing Tower Block it’s actually a horror when in fact it’s really a social urban thriller. From the bleak grim surroundings of a deprived area (delivered masterfully in the film’s cinematography) to the film’s maybe predictable but also stereotypical of many British Suburban areas, the ‘broken Britain’. This is the Britain that the Conservative government pretends to say it’s helping when actually what they are doing is destroying it piece by piece like the mysterious sniper killing the character bullet by bullet. Every character Symbolises one of the many issues that plight working class families everyday lives but in the film, your left wondering should I really hate them or sympathetic towards them?
The cast or most of them actually deliver a decent performance helping to keep the film interesting however by the time we get to know them all you’ve actually guessed their predictable fate. Sheridan Smith is our heroine Becky who despite her problems to convey out and out emotions actually delivers one of her better performances. She becomes the survivor’s leader keeping everyone as sane as possible as she thinks a logical way to escape, using that strength we see at the beginning. Jack O’Connell is great as the scumbag Curtis who is forced to grow up quickly and actually, provide that ‘protection’ the residents ‘pay him’ to do. Since I saw him play a young Bobby Charlton in last years United BBC drama I’ve had an appreciation for him he has made some questionable/generic film choices but he does show he has the acting chops with his diverse range of characters. As for the rest of the characters, we don’t really learn enough about them to show empathy or sympathy towards them other than they might be next for a bullet to the head.
Let’s make one thing clear here on High rise flats or tower blocks, the past decade they have become the symbol of refuge for junkies, alcoholics and pensioners which is totally false. Some do live up to the reputation and like the one I live in, it’s not a affulent area nor is it in a deprived area good people do live in these blocks.So if you can push aside the films predictable flaws, Tower Block does actually deliver an intense, brutal silly but entertaining yarn. An intriguing little timewaster that uses its very limited budget constraints to deliver a film something that’s actually worth a watch , most of all you will be supporting the British film industry.
Thriler | UK. 2012 | 15 |18th February 2013 (UK) |Lionsgate Films | Dir.James Nunn, Ronnie Thompson | Sheridan Smith, Jack O’Connell, Russell Tovey, Ralph Brown |Buy:Blu-ray / DVD
Win: Tower Block on DVD