Tower-ing Fiction #5: Petronas Towers, Entrapment (1999)

Petrona Towers, (source)

The second half of the heist thriller Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999) uses what were at the time the tallest towers in the world, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, to stage its climax, a mash-up of Mission: Impossible (dir. Brian De Palma, 1996) and The Thomas Crown Affair (dir. John McTiernan, 1999).

The final heist is set to occur at the turn of the millennium, 31 December 1999, with Gin (Catherine Zeta-Jones) having arranged a time gap in some synced devices to steal a large sum of money, and Mac (Sean Connery) having done the planning for the more traditional heist elements, including how to get in and out the towers.

Importantly for the plot, the Petronas Towers share a central entrance and lobby, but rise some 88 floors in parallel (the upper tiers of which have a distinctive Rub el Hizb shape), with a two-story skybridge connecting the 41st and 42nd floors.

When the Towers are introduced mid-way through the film, Gin has been working to recruit Mac to her already-in-motion plan to stage a precisely-timed heist on short notice that can only occur from with the Petronas complex. She and Mac travel to Kuala Lumpur, where she has a flat in the slums, which the film presents as quite near the bustling city center (via compositing two locations together, to the consternation of the Malaysian government*).

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

In reality, the buildings are in the heart of the commercial center of the city, along the Jalan Ampang (or Ampang Road):

 

When the Towers are introduced, their scale and visual distinctiveness seem to be their key qualities:

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Mac is tasked with surveillance, so that he and the viewer can identify the key aspects of the skybridge, which of course he already knows will be central to the climax of the film—notably, workeres are hanging decorative lights for the millinneum festivites on two parallel steel cables below the skybridge.

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment  (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Which he then continues on the ground:

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Finally, on the night of the heist, the location is specified by establishing shots such as this one, from just above the skybridge:

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Gin and Mac start the heist inside the north-east Tower, but after their initial plan goes sideways, are forced to use Mac’s Plan B, skirting the exterior balcony, before needing to climb along the steel cables below the skybridge.

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Before the lower cable snaps, and they swing to one of the supports, before climbing into the south-west Tower:

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment  (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Allowing them to climb back through the skybridge, escape from the predicted SWAT team

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment  (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

With Gin escaping down a generic air shaft, Mac escaping by other means, and the film transitioning away from the Towers in a hazy closing shot, again composited together with slums superimposed.

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)

Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel, 1999)


* Also see Tim Bunnell, “Re-viewing the ‘Entrapment’ Controversy: Megaprojection, (Mis)representation and Postcolonial Performance,” GeoJournal 59.4 (2004): 297-305.