out of Five
Running time: 90
Entertaining, well written thriller enlivened by strong performances from a superb cast and a decent amount of shocks, though it's slightly let down by a disappointing finale.
What's it all about?
Co-directed by James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson and written by James Moran (Cockneys vs Zombies), Tower Block stars Sheridan Smith as Becky, who witnesses a murder on the top-floor corridor of her tower block, but, along with her fellow residents, is too afraid to tell the police (Steven Cree, Jordan Long) what she saw. Three months later, the majority of the building has been evacuated pending demolition, leaving the residents of the top floor as the only people left in the block.
When Becky's one-night-stand and several other residents are shot dead by a mysterious sniper, the survivors (including Ralph Brown as an ex-army sergeant Neville, Russell Tovey as nervous alcoholic Paul and Jack O'Connell as street thug and corridor bully Kurtis) take refuge in the corridor and realise that they'll have to work together to try and come up with an escape plan. However, they quickly discover that the killer has also booby-trapped the exits to the building and disabled their phone reception.
Sheridan Smith makes a terrific lead as Becky, a sort of council estate version of the classic action heroine (she even strips down to her vest, Bruce Willis-style). O'Connell is equally good as the amoral Kurtis, particularly when he gets to put his own spin on a stripped down version of the walking-down-an-exploding corridor scene. There's also colourful support from Ralph Brown, Russell Tovey, Julie Graham (as protective mother Carol) and Harry McEntire as Carol's video-game-obsessed son Daniel.
Moran's script keeps things moving at a decent pace and ensures that there's a decent shock or suspense scene every few minutes. Similarly, the screenplay makes the most of the group dynamic and the dialogue is sharply written, with O'Connell, Smith and Brown getting an equal share of the best lines.
The main problem with the film is that it's slightly let down by a disappointing finale in which the killer is revealed, which gives the whole thing an unfortunate Scooby Doo feel; it's a shame that the film felt the need to unmask the killer in the first place, as it would have been much scarier if left a mystery. On a similar note, despite all the good ideas flying about, the glaringly obvious solution to the problem of calling for outside help doesn't occur to anyone until the end of the film.
Tower Block is an entertaining, pacily-directed thriller that delivers a decent amount of shocks and features a terrific central performance from Sheridan Smith. Give Sheridan Smith more leads, British filmmakers. Worth seeing.