12th July 2018 (UK)
A father goes to great lengths to save his family from a burning skyscraper.
Rawson Marshall Thurber
Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber
No one can accuse Dwayne Johnson of slacking on the work front: since December 2017, the former wrestler turned modern day action hero has headlined three big-budget films, starting with Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle before taking the lead in April 2018s monster movie Rampage.
Johnson rounds off his trio of tall tales with Skyscraper in which he plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI hostage negotiator turned skyscraper security consultant. His latest assignment takes him and his family to Hong Kong, to assess the anti-fire measures put in place for the city’s latest state-of-the-art structure: the world’s tallest building known as The Pearl.
Days before its due to open, terrorists take over The Pearl, set a fire on the 92nd floor after deactivating the fail-safe systems which would usually extinguish the inferno and in the process frame Will as being the culprit. Sawyer’s family is trapped on the upper floors and it’s up to him to find a way back into the building, clear his name and uncover the motivation behind the terrorist attack.
Let’s address the elephant in the room straight off: yes, Skyscraper sounds suspiciously like a contemporary mash-up of macho 80s actioner Die Hard and the 1974 Steve Mcqueen picture The Towering Inferno. So much so, that a few days before release, Johnson himself revealed some nifty posters for this project which pay homage to the aforementioned classics.
Skyscraper‘s writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (who has previously worked with Johnson on the action/comedy Central Intelligence) is fully aware of these comparisons too and doesn’t do much to set his movie apart from its more entertaining inspirations. Thurber almost submits to the given fact that no one really expects Johnson to perish in the flames, instead making the perilous action scenes more of a case of how he’s going to get out of the hot ‘n sticky situations, rather than if.
As a result, there’s some seriously impressive stunt work and CGI on show, including the crane-to-flaming-building leap that the marketing has so aggressively rested upon – a jump which looks disappointingly smaller in context and I suspect some digital fiddling has taken place to exaggerate it for the trailers.
Johnson exhibits the usual smouldering charisma we’ve come to expect from him in these roles, while Neve Campbell as his wife doesn’t have much to work with other than ushering her children around the fire and a brief scuffle towards the films finale. The big bad guy is no Hans Gruber either, with Danish actor Roland Møller simply being slightly tougher and more vocal than the rest of the expendable henchmen to be called their leader. When it’s all finally revealed, his motives for causing the blaze seem incredibly
But what Skyscraper is really missing is some fiery one-liner burns. There’s a distinct lack of zingers here, something which most memorable action movies are packed full of. The film suffers the same ailment as seen in Johnson’s previous movie Rampage too, in that the vast majority of the dialogue is spoken just to carry one scene to the next, explicitly explaining every move that’s about to be made.
For all its unoriginal narrative beats and poor scripting, Skyscraper still stands on its own thanks to solid foundations placed by an always-reliable Dwayne Johnson performance and some mightily impressive stunts.
Oh, and duct tape. Lots and lots of duct tape.
Reliable Dwayne Johnson performance
Great stunts and CGI
Script made up of expositional dialogue
Poor villain and motive