Really, you know what you're going to get, there's no surprises, and it all comes down to how well executed the action sequences are and whether we care about the people involved in the tragedy. For me, this film works. Granted it's Korean and subtitles take some of the tension away as your eyes are flicking to the bottom of the screen to see what's bring said. But, this film really works as a 21st Century disaster film.
There's lots of big action sequences, big fires, explosions, burning bodies, falling bodies, tons of special effects. It's all exciting stuff in a very PG sort of way.
Taking advantage of knowledge gained in the 9-11 disaster, we see steel frameworks buckling, people tacking pleas to find their loved ones on nearby walls, burning debris falling from the top of the building; everything that happens to modern buildings when they burn.
My biggest criticism of the film is that there are too many characters. The film takes 30 minutes before the fire starts and in that time we meet the maintenance manager and his child, the restaurant manager, the head chef, the incompetent chef, the incompetent chef's girlfriend, the maintenance manager's friend, the rookie fireman, the fireman sergeant, the work obsessed fireman, the lottery winner, the Christian, the mother of a college student, the college student, the building manager, the building owner, the snooty woman and her dog, and so on and so on. Really, there are just too many. Cutting the number down and shortening the introduction would have improved this film a lot, allowing us to care more for fewer characters.
Whilst most of the film is deadly serious, there is some light relief provided to make the film more watchable - two hours of relentless disaster is just too depressing. In particular, the character of the fireman sergeant is likable, comical, but still very serious in his actions. My favourite moment comes when he prays for, and gets, a tsunami, dozens of floors up the building.
I can't imagine this film being made in America, post 9-11, and many Americans may find it too distressing to watch but, as a reboot of the disaster film genre, it's great success.