Tower Block / Cert: 15 / Director: James Nunn, Ronnie Thompson / Screenplay: James Moran / Starring: Sheridan Smith, Jack O'Connell, Ralph Brown, Russell Tovey / Release Date: September 21st
A youngster is chased across outer London by two assailants in hoods, their faces covered. He runs into a tower block and is cornered in a corridor where he is beaten mercilessly. The residents ignore his cries for help and the crime going on outside their door as he is beaten to death. So begins Tower Block, which has an opening that feels ripped from the headlines that we face every day in ‘Broken Britain’. However Tower Block is mainly concerned with thrilling you, which it does efficiently and stylishly.
The police do some asking around but are met with silence and fear, the one girl left in the soon to be demolished block who dared to intervene (played by Sheridan Smith in what should be a breakout performance) even refuses to get involved despite wearing the scars of the ordeal on her face. Three months later, most of the residents have been re-housed apart from the very top floor, and on a Saturday morning like any other, someone starts taking pot shots through their windows with a high-powered sniper rifle.
Even if some of the characterisations are a little on the nose, Tower Block’s script does a good job of setting things up. Within fifteen minutes the dynamic of this group and the relationships have been fully fleshed out. We have the mysterious two flatmates who are possibly criminals but keep to themselves, the cockney wide-boy who fleeces protection money out of all of them, the middle-aged couple with the gaming addicted kid, the loner alcoholic and so on. As these characters are introduced it at first seems obvious who is going to die horribly, yet Tower Block takes consistently surprising turns. The film is teeth-clenchingly tense and suspenseful at times and you’re never quite sure where the next bullet is coming from; every time a door is opened you will find yourself slowly closing your eyes as the tension builds. Adding to the atmosphere is a wonderfully evocative electronic score which refuses to go all ‘urban’ on us the way that similarly themed films may do.
This movie has all the elements of being a new British breakout hit which is why it’s such a bit of a shame to report that the thing that works in its favour is also its biggest weakness. After the build-up the screenplay sadly has many characters making the most illogical of decisions just to propel the plot forward.
Small flaws aside Tower Block is thrilling and entertaining in all the right ways, and is definitely the kind of thing we should do more of in the UK.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10