TOWER – Movie Review

Brilliant. Riveting. Unique.

TOWER is an extremely unique documentary about the mass shooting at The University of Texas at Austin on August 1, 1966 when Charles Whitman went to the observation deck of the Texas Tower and proceeded to terrorize the campus for an hour and a half in the end killing 14 and wounding 32  others.  It was the first mass shooting on a college campus.

While there were hundreds of eye witnesses that day, the director, Keith Maitland, focuses his story on a  handful of people who were in the heart of the shooting including – two police officers, a book store employee, a young boy who was shot while on his bicycle, an injured pregnant woman, a news reporter, a student witness and a student hero.  By narrowing the focus to just these individuals, you were really able to sink into the story from their perspectives and it felt more real and intimate.

One of the most brilliant aspects of this documentary is the juxtaposition  of animation with actual footage from that day.  The animation is very lifelike and allows the filmmaker to recreate scenes and showcase different perspectives and emotions.  At the end of the film, you are able to see and hear the voices of the actual people who are represented in the film.

The soundtrack includes a simple, repeating, bone-chilling piano tune that keeps you on the edge of your seat and gives you a real sense of how long this ordeal lasted.

I appreciate that TOWER focuses on the victims and heroes and not on the shooter.  While we do find out who the shooter was, there is no analysis on why he may have committed this crime.  This is not his story.

TOWER really reflects how times have changed – from the styles of clothes the students wore to the fact that the university only closed for one day.  There is no memorial on campus to mark the event – only bullet markings on a statue in the south mall for curious students to seek out.  No counseling was provided and the victims represented in the film never really spoke of it again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  It told a difficult story in a very respectful and intimate way.  I attended The University of Texas at Austin and as I watched the movie, I could recognize the buildings and locations.  I always knew the story of the shooting and a couple of times even looked for the bullet marks.  A couple of my friends have parents who were there that day but it is not something that is talked about.  It was just something that happened on that fateful day in 1966…and continues to happen all around the country 50 years later…

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