Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Someday you're gonna kill ten-thousand in one of these firetraps...

There are 2 reasons why Towering Inferno hasn't been on TV for 5 years - they're tall, American and no longer standing. Comparisons are inevitable, and let me preface this by saying it's not an easy watch by any means. It's gonna be a long time before burning buildings and helpless civilians in any way equates to entertainment. I've no personal connections to the attacks whatsoever, and I found it pretty upsetting in places. It really does take you back - and if you can claim anything closer than simply being a horrified TV-bystander I'd say definitely avoid. As much as I tried not to think about it, it's impossible at times (PS imdb trivia fascinating - I love the ratio of sets built to sets standing by the end - just don't dwell on the day filming wrapped, or where they got their inspiration.)

The justification is probably that with Hollywood making films like United 93 and World Trade Center, no one can really object. Hmmm, yes and no. No because they didn't stop The Two Towers (about a fake war) during a real war, and if people are facing up to these things in cinema then what have we to fear for a film entirely fictional. Yes too though - the current offerings about the actual event are very aware of the people involved, so the subject will be handled with careful tact and sensitivity. Even a touching dedication to brave firefighters everywhere can't excuse the melodramatic music and a poster like this.

Not that I'm saying they shouldn't have shown it. Obvious connections aside it's a smashing film - about as good as disaster movies ever are. In general, I don't like them. It's beyond simple to get caught up in the plight of the survivors, it takes no skill at all - and there's an awful tedium about them. Fifteen minutes of introducing the large cast (pregnant women, film stars, claustrophobic people, reluctant heroes etc) and laying imaginary bets on their survival. Another 15 minutes of "suspense" i.e. waiting for the Inferno. And then the film gets started. The characters are so textbook,why bother introducing them - start from the point our hero realises there's a fire. Jump straight into the action for once! Was anybody surprised when that plane last week was overrun with poisonous snakes? Thought not...No other genre is so traintracked. You know the kissing couple are going to get it. You know the children are going to survive. Nasty, greedy people who try to save themselves first will be got by some obscure disaster-movie karma. Although I admit it's normally more of a gamble as to whether the animals survive. As for the fire itself - it's all Paul Newman's fault. Why? HE WAS RESIGNING! Never resign! Ever! They never sneer at the plot. There's a family. The mommy is deaf. The little boy always listens to loud music and the cute blonde girl translates the sign language. I just felt the need to comment on that.

So don't come expecting anything great. However this did feel a cut above the average.

Paul Newman, the architect who designed the place was our everyman-hero-guy, and Steve McQueen, firefighter with an indomitable gaze was the heroic-hero-guy. They were probably equally good, I'm not really brave enough to get involved (see note on Channel 4 below). All I'll say is this - the architect had 1/3 of a load of guilt for the whole affair, and you can really tell. And if there's anything I go for in a character it's obvious remorse, or obvious lack of it - I really sympathised with him. As for the fire fighter, he reminded me of when Eric Bana's character explained why he kept going back in on those trucks to fight in Black Hawk Down. He wasn't given as much to do, and he had less chance to stretch his acting range, but I'm sure he's just as good (see note on Channel 4 below).

We watched it on TV, and they cut bits. I'm just commenting that me parents noticed parts missing.

There are hundreds of wonderful moments - notably OJ Simpson rescuing a cat, a woman fretting her daughter doesn't know where the safety deposit box key is kept, a shadow of a tear on a guy's face which I just spotted, a brief shot of someone praying and a waiter serving up extravagant ice-cream-chocolate-marshmallow indulgences for a pair of frightened children. Pretty understated in places - it could have been far more melodramatic.

All in all, this is pretty much as good as they come, with some suitably terrified chorus acting and ace special effects. But (and it's a big butt, like mine...) you really cannot escape the connection between the real World Trade Center, especially as that's what the building in the movie was based on. 'tis a pity (sorry, that sounded really insensitive. Pity as in at the veeery bottom of the list of reasons why said event was bad) as there will be a lot of people who'll find themselves unable to watch this. If you think you may be one of them, give it a miss entirely.

On a personal note - a complaint to Channel 4. The lady introduced the film as "Towering Inferno starring Steve McQueen". If you know anything about the history of the film - the squabbles, Steve insisting 12 extra lines be added to his script to match Paul Newman's, artfully - then you can see why that's an unforgivable gaffe; Mr Newman's lawyers are probably on the phone this very minute.


Emma said...

Very nice blog. Very nice.

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