Tower

Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation, Tower reveals the action-packed untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of America’s first mass school shooting, when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.

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  • ★★★★ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd

    76/100

    Second viewing, no change. Tried to comprehend the objections of a few friends who are troubled by the use of rotoscoping and/or (very briefly) rock music, and just didn't see anything remotely exploitative or unseemly. The nonstop emphasis on courage and selflessness in the face of inexplicable horror could hardly be further removed from ghoulishness*, and again repeatedly moved me to tears. Still think Maitland brings the real subjects in way too early, but I see now why he made that choice—the cut from "I guess this is it" (spoken by the young actor playing Claire, animated) to "I guess this is the end" (spoken by the elderly actual Claire, live-action) has exactly the right lacerating effect, and the film's strict chronological approach precludes delaying that moment until later. Fair tradeoff, I guess.

    * Also worth noting: Whitman is so completely effaced that Tower doesn't even show him at the moment that he's gunned down. Not the approach you'd take if your primary goal were to satisfy the audience's bloodlust.

  • ★★★★½ review by josh lewis🌹 on Letterboxd

    this is uniquely powerful in its choice to barely acknowledge the gunman--who on august 1st, 1966 took the university of texas hostage by climbing the campus tower and firing at civilians below--and instead allow the brave survivors to dictate the way this event is told and remembered. it's harrowing to watch as they recall specific memories of the event (like a saviour's hair colour, or a part of the body that still remembers being preemptively ready to have a bullet penetrate it) and see them complimented by deeply expressive rotoscope animation reenactments that beautifully capture all the detailed, human moments and feelings that swirled around such a tragic day. in the end, it's those brief moments of humanity and bravery that are going to get us through these damn shootings.

  • ★★★★ review by Josh Larsen on Letterboxd

    An inventive exercise in artistic journalism, Tower revisits the 1966 University of Texas mass shooting by dramatizing the memories of those who were there via rotoscoping animation (in which live action is layered with animated effects). The result lends visual poetry to oral history, and thereby offers a particular grace to the survivors of that awful day.

    Full review here.

  • ★★★★½ review by Trevor Maek on Letterboxd

    On August 1, 1966, a shooter ascended the University of Texas tower, killing 18 and injuring 31 others on the campus below. The following day, classes were canceled, and evidence of the shooting was cleaned up, and students resumed their normal schedule. From that day onward, the university tried to forget about the tragedy that happened, and the stories of those affected that day were put on the shelf. Tower immerses us in the events of that day, and brings the stories of those affected back into the light.

    “You cannot defeat darkness by running from it, nor can you conquer your inner demons by hiding them from the world. In order to defeat the darkness, you must bring it into the light.” - Seth Adam Smith



    Though the jarring sounds of gunshots permeate the entire film, Maitland is able to breathe life into the brave individuals in the film through his creative uses of colour and voice acting. While some documentaries get bogged down in the why and the who, Tower devotes its attention to immersing us in the stories of the individuals who were there the day of the shooting. As a result, this is a film that is healing, empathetic and life-affirming. A must-see.

  • ★★★★ review by Jonathan Rosenbaum on Letterboxd

    A blistering "alternative" to Bogdanovich's "Targets" in terms of both narrative focus and verisimilitude.

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