Drawing inspiration from films like Assault on Precinct 13 and
Phone Booth, Tower Block is a tidy little British
thriller that sees the residents of the titular tower block, ironically
called ‘Serenity House’, finding themselves getting picked off by a
film opens with a young man being pursued by two masked thugs; seeking
safety inside the tower block, he finds his impassioned pleas fall on
deaf ears as the residents turn a blind eye, complacent from years of
living amongst the culture of violence synonymous with lower
socio-economic housing. The only exception is Becky (Sheridan Smith),
who gets violently assaulted for her efforts and decides not to involve
herself further once the police come looking for witnesses to the
assault, which led to the young man’s death.
forward three months and the residents are being pressured to leave
their homes to make way for new development; defiantly staying put until
the council intervenes and rehouses them, the main group is comprised of
older couple Neville and Violet, Becky, struggling alcoholic Paul, short
tempered single mother Amy, junkie duo Gary and Eddie and a middle class
family headed by the cantankerous Carol. Rounding out this motley crew
is Chav thug Kurtis, who is introduced gleefully collecting payment from
each tenant - Protection money to prevent him from destroying their
apartments. Many of the residents have little time for one another,
other than to exchange barbs, and it’s evident that the impending
demolition weighs heavily on most of their minds.
already tense existence is suddenly exacerbated by the appearance of a
sniper – Or a team of snipers, going off of the pinpoint accuracy and
rapidity of the shots – Who seems intent on clearing the tower block of
all life. As the survivors mange to stumble out into the relative safety
of the main hallway (The only area devoid of windows), they find their
home sprayed with cryptic graffiti and all exits either blocked off or
to work together in order to discover the reasoning behind this
seemingly unprovoked attack and hopefully find a method of escape,
tempers fray and revelations arise that could upset the delicate
equilibrium of the residents’ uneasy alliance.
Tower Block is obviously a low budget production, so the setting
affords for most of the action to take place on one or two major sets,
but the visual style of the film far belies its origins. Competently
directed by James Nunn, making his feature directorial debut, the
aesthetics of the camerawork and the films setting are utilised to
effectively invoke a sense of claustrophobia.
script is tightly written and the premise unique enough to carry the
film throughout most of its hour and a half running time, although it
has to be said that the ball is dropped quite noticeably in the third
act, with the final reveal coming off as contrived and, even worse,
clearly obvious after the first half hour. The setting works almost as a
character itself, with the oppressive, almost dystopian, colour palette
really bringing home the bleakness of existence just above the poverty
cast, mostly cribbed from British television, perform admirably and
imbue the characters with the realism necessary to elicit true concern
for their plight from the viewer. Of particular note is Jack O’Connell
as Kurtis; the character’s transition throughout the film could have
come off as clichéd in less capable hands, but O’Connell’s portrayal is
tinged with that delicately balanced dichotomy of menace and charm that
creates an emphatic bond with a character even when they’re, for all
intents and purposes, playing the role of the villain.
Audio and Visual
transfer is of the high quality expected of an Icon release, with
suitably inky blacks and no sign of compression or banding. The level of
detail is terrific, especially for such a low budget film, and the image
remains consistently clear and crisp throughout.
is presented with an option for either a 5.1 or 7.1 DTS-HD soundtrack,
with both providing brilliant clarity and clear channel differentiation.
The sound design is of the utmost quality, with dialogue, incidental
ambient sounds and the soundtrack all masterfully balanced.
Unfortunately this release possesses no extra features at all.
Although it’s not without its flaws, Tower Block is a competent
thriller with an intriguing ventral premise and James Nunn and co. Come
rather close to pulling the whole shebang off, despite the low budget.
The cast perform admirably and the majority of the script offers up
unpredictable twist and turns that feel refreshing when compared against
bigger budget fare. The plot holes and unsatisfactory ending don’t serve
to undermine the tightly wound tension of the rest of the film and I
found myself more enamoured by the quality of the film than I initially
Tower Block immediately grabs you in the opening minutes and refuses
to let go, providing an enjoyable and, at times, genuinely shocking
experience. My biggest bone of contention regarding the antagonist could
have been easily solved with a throwaway line or reference that would
have provided a more solid justification for the preceding events, but,
conversely, it could have also sparked derisive cries of clichéd
you’re willing to forgive the film’s shortcomings, you will find a lot
to like about Tower Block, especially when you consider what was
achieved within the constraints of the small budget. Recommended.