Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Byron Mann, Hannah Quinlivan, Noah Taylor, Roland Møller, Chin Han
RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: https://www.skyscrapermovie.com
Opening Day: 12 July 2018
Synopsis: Global icon Dwayne Johnson leads the cast of Legendary’s Skyscraper as former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Ford, who now assesses security for skyscrapers. On assignment in China he finds the tallest, safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he’s been framed for it. A wanted man on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and somehow rescue his family who is trapped inside the building...above the fire line.
Dwayne Johnson is easily the most hardworking actor in Hollywood right now, but let’s face it, he’s pulled his weight – literally and figuratively, mind you – to make what would just otherwise be dumb B-movies a whole lot more enjoyable. In ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’, his chemistry with Kevin Hart and Jack Black lent the CGI-ed adventure humour and heart; in ‘Rampage’, his buddy pairing with the nine-foot tall albino gorilla named George saved the day and the movie from its own CGI-ed tedium; and in ‘Skyscraper’, his third movie in just seven months, Johnson makes the plainly ludicrous almost believable. Oh yes, there is hardly a semblance of logic or credibility to the stunts in this unabashed cross between ‘Die Hard’ and ‘The Towering Inferno’, but hey as a mindless action movie, you can hardly argue that it does deliver some heart-stopping vertiginous thrills.
As written and directed by his ‘Central Intelligence’ helmer Rawson Marshall Thurber, ‘Skyscraper’ places Johnson’s former FBI hostage team rescue leader-turned-security consultant Will Sawyer in a race-against-time to rescue his wife and two kids from a raging inferno within the world’s tallest building. Thurber can hardly be bothered about why the building is on fire, hence the throwaway premise of some Euro-accented thugs wanting to retrieve a thumb drive from the building’s billionaire owner Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han); instead, he’s a lot more enamoured with the titular structure which Will will have to scale. A fictional 3,500-foot 200-storey edifice, the high-rise named The Pearl boasts a king-size indoor garden complete with a waterfall as well as a giant sphere atop its frame.
Any self-deserving action movie junkie will know right from the start that these two distinct features will be the basis of the film’s major set-pieces – the garden boasts one of its most nail-biting moments where Will fashions a makeshift bridge out of a piece of wood for his wife and son to cross above an entire field of vegetation engulfed in flames; and the sphere is the scene for a virtual reality hall-of-mirrors climax that to Thurber’s credit is actually quite imaginatively designed and executed. Nevertheless, the piece de resistance is arguably Will’s attempt to jump from the arm of wobbly tower crane into an open broken window of the building’s burning 96th floor. Never mind the physics of that, or the sheer logic-defying precursor of Will scaling a 100 storeys or so on the construction crane within 10 minutes – watching Johnson pull it off is still as stomach-churning, edge-of-your-seat exhilarating and viscerally satisfying as it gets.
Even more incredible is how Will manages to do all that with part of his left leg missing, the consequence of a harrowing operation gone wrong which is also conveniently used to explain how he met his spouse Sarah (Neve Campbell). As manipulative as that bit of prosthetic may be in garnering more sympathy for Will’s circumstances, there is also no doubt that Thurber puts the detail to good use – one sequence has him fighting on a one leg in a mano-a-mano that recalls Johnson’s old wrestling days; another has him detaching the metal in order to hoist himself up from the side of the building; and yet another sees him use it to jam a pair of titanium doors before they close. It’s by far the most nifty uses of a prosthesis that we’ve seen; that, and duct tape actually, which according to the movie’s logic, is sticky enough to help you scale the building’s exterior and handy enough to use as bandage.
Like we said at the start, as incredulous as it all is, Johnson ultimately sells what would have been laughable in the hands of any other star. Of course, Johnson would probably have been better-served with the kind of witty self-deprecating repartee he usually evinces – “if you can’t fix it with duct tape, then you ain’t using enough duct tape’ is as far as Thurber ever gets – but still Johnson’s sheer charisma makes you root for him even through the most absurd moments. Campbell makes a surprisingly solid supporting act, who more than holds her own against the baddies, among them Hannah Quinlivan’s (aka Mrs Jay Chou) dominatrix-styled assassin. Ditto for our very own Chin Han, who brings out some unexpected layers to his underwritten character next to Johnson especially in the final act.
There is yet another accomplishment which should be duly acknowledged – though set in Hong Kong, ‘Skyscraper’ was primarily lensed in Vancouver, which makes the generous exterior shots of The Pearl against the Hong Kong skyline even more impressive. But at the end of the day, this stunt- and CGI-laden vehicle was constructed on Johnson’s very back as an intense thrill-ride with audacious stunts, and on those counts, it succeeds exceedingly well. It’s just the kind of popcorn diversion you’d be looking for in a summer blockbuster – and just as forgettable soon after it’s over – so as long as you’re not looking for smarts or for that matter realism, you’ll probably thoroughly enjoy this slice of Rock-solid action movie escapism.
(It's a big, loud and dumb action movie all right, but with Dwayne Johnson's unique brand of star charisma and some logic-defying but undeniably exhilarating stunts)
Review by Gabriel Chong