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22nd Apr 2017

Netflix’s latest documentary about murder in Texas is one the year’s best films but nobody saw it

Paul Moore

One of the best films from 2016 and nobody saw it. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

It’s very likely that you’re sitting down in front of the TV and are currently searching for something to watch on Netflix. Well, if that’s the case, we have something for anyone that loves hard-hitting and powerful documentaries.

Given that we were the very first people to preach the Netflix-gospel about the superb Precinct Seven Five, Oklahoma City , The Fear of 13, Shadow of TruthLes Blues and the award-winning 13th among many others, we genuinely believe that Tower is one of the very best documentaries in the Netflix library.

High praise indeed.

Ok, so what’s it about?

August 1st 1966 was the day when innocence was shattered.

A sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the iconic University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes in what was a previously unimaginable event. Tower combines archival footage with rotoscopic animation of the dramatic day, based entirely on first person testimonies from witnesses, heroes and survivors, in a seamless and suspenseful retelling of the unfolding tragedy. The film highlights the fear, confusion, and visceral realities that changed the lives of those present, and the rest of us, forever – a day when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.

What makes Tower so unique is how it deals with its subject matter, time period and narrative.

While Tower does adopt the traditional documentary approach of interviewing witnesses and using archive footage – we hear from students, teachers, cops and even a boy on a paper round – it’s dramatically different from countless documentaries that you’ve seen.

How so? Well, it also uses actors to re-enact the accounts that are provided by these aforementioned eyewitnesses’. Key moments are then re-staged via digitally captured rotoscope and combined with the black and white TV coverage from the era. If you’ve seen Richard Linklater’s films A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, it’s just like that.

Truth be told, this is a documentary that’s unlike any other one that you’ve seen, and with a current rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s a firm favourite of the critics.

In their review, The Guardian stated that “the film stands as a powerful, emotional memorial” while renowned film critic Leonard Maltin said “whether we’re talking about fictional filmmaking or documentaries, Tower is one of the best films of the year.

Its brilliance was echoed by Roger Ebert’s website because they believe Tower is “one of the most essential films of the year.” In fact, Tower is currently ranked as the seventh best film of 2016 on Metacritic.

Here’s the trailer.

Clip via – kinolorber