Moral indifference and rationalization of cowardice is something only city dwellers can relate to. Living in ghettos will especially leave you on your own if you’re involved in a scuffle or mugging, since most–if not all–tenants in a low rent neighborhood will stand by the doors doing nothing. When the time comes to speak up, no one heard a thing, or saw a thing. They’ll even swear they weren’t even on the same planet during the time of the crime. “Tower Block” is a top notch morality thriller based around residents that end up being punished for doing nothing when the time came for them to step up.
The directors of “Tower Block” don’t just confront the moral consequences of standing by and allowing a crime to occur, but it also forces them to discuss why they feel they’re not worthy of this punishment and the explanations they offer. The bickering and consistent rationalization between the tenants of the 12th floor in a mostly deserted tower block offers audiences the most evocative themes. Do any of these people deserve this brutality? Are they ripe for punishment? Should they all be lined up and shot? Are some people exempt from this vicious retaliation more than others? “Tower Block” opens one night on floor twelve of the tower block where a young man flees in to the block from two assailants.
Running up to the twelfth floor, he is beaten mercilessly by two hooded thugs who persist in beating him as he cries for help. Everyone on the floor locks their doors and ignores the pleas, except for young Becky who unsuccessfully tries to help and pays dearly. Days later as the police investigate the apparent murder, the neighbors deny any commotion, especially Becky, who insists she was merely mugged. Months later, the residents awaken in their floor to the shock of a sniper who has set up across the tower block and begins violently picking off anyone and everyone that attempts to flee or escape from the tower block. As the residents gather to attempt an escape plan and try to make sense of this horrible attack, they discover this isn’t a random psychopath. And neither of them are leaving with their lives.
With communication shut off and no help in sight, the tension thickens over the course of a week, as tenants bicker among one another and the distribution of power is changed among the self-righteous. It’s a fitting irony that the terrorized tenants are wondering why no one on the outside is helping them, and it becomes quite gating when tenants suddenly start barking orders and insisting on innocence from the prior crime that garnered this attack. The killer is swift and merciless, picking off anyone that enters their sight, and along the way the tenants learn the floor is rigged in a manner that makes escape almost impossible. Sheridan Smith is a wonderful heroine who takes control of the situation and attempts to ease the hysteria when people begin dying left and right.
The killer’s attacks are often bereft of reason or motive, so not only does the script make it impossible to figure out who among these people will die soon, but who is actually behind the rifle. Jack O’Connell is especially entertaining as the despicable drug dealer of the floor who blackmails the tenants in to paying him for protection. When he awakens to the chaos, he also begins to test his own power among the frightened denizens, and gradually forms a sense of redemption that will remain foggy to the viewer. While the film makes for a wonderful entry in to the thriller genre, I would have loved if we never found out the identity of the sniper.
Much like the entertaining “Phone Booth,” I would very much have appreciated if we not only never discovered the identity of the sniper, but perhaps were clued in that someone related to the building simply decided to punish these people one day and may still be lurking out in the wilderness. While the reveal is a bit of a let down (I couldn’t figure out the identity of the sniper until one of the characters named them), it is necessary to close the film on a note that will satisfy audiences, and finally gives eager viewers answers they’d like to help them clarify this mystery. The finale feels like it was molded to hold the audiences hands and give them a resolution, which is a shame considering the directors go through great pains to conceal the sniper throughout most of the film. Though suspension of disbelief is a pre-requisite, “Tower Block” is a rather gripping thriller with top notch performances.
The Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory brings a six minute Behind the Scenes feature with various interviews from cast members, the original trailer, and an audio commentary with Writer James Moran who discusses his film with a wry sense of humor and provides insight toward the story and his screenplay.
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