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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Skyscraper

(M) ★★★½

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber.

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Roland Møller, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, Hannah Quinlivan, Byron Mann, Adrian Holmes.

Stairs were for wimps.
Let's get the obvious out of the way - yes, this is basically Die Hard, turned up to 11. The building is taller, the stakes are higher, the danger is greater, and even the hero is bigger. I mean, no one's bigger than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, right? He's effectively a normal human turned up to 11.

If Die Hard is the benchmark we're measuring Skyscraper up against, then the latter comes up many storeys short. But that's to be expected. What's unexpected is that Skyscraper is more fun and more effective than it has any right to be as a very big and somewhat dumb blockbuster.

Johnson stars as Will Sawyer, an ex-FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader who lost his leg in a hostage situation that went wrong, resulting in a number of deaths. Ten years on, Sawyer is married to army nurse Sarah (Campbell), with whom he has twins Georgia and Henry (Roberts and Cottrell). He's also working as a private security expert and has been brought in by his old FBI buddy Ben (Schreiber) to assess the safety of the Pearl - the world's tallest building. Located in Hong Kong, the Pearl is an engineering marvel. It's also about to become a battleground, as a team of baddies set out to steal something located on the top floor.


Skyscraper is surprisingly efficient in its set-up, although the relationship between Ben and Will could have used some extra depth. Otherwise, it introduces its world and protagonists nicely. Yes, it's all painted in very broad simple strokes but this was always going to be more like painting a wall as opposed to a fine art masterpiece. Is the wall covered in paint and looks alright? Yep. Good - job done.

As far as big dumb fun goes, Skyscraper's got it going on. The biggest and dumbest moment is the film's now meme-worthy (and unrealistic) crane jump. This scene is the film in a nutshell - yeah, it's ridiculous, but it is edge-of-your-seat vertiginous stuff in the context of the movie. Somehow it works, if you're willing to go along for the ride.

The film is also to be applauded for having a hero who happens to be an amputee, as well as a heroine who is definitely not a damsel in distress. Campbell gets some heroic moments amid the fires, fights, and shoot-outs, in what could have been an otherwise thankless role. As for Johnson, well, he's not going to win an Oscar for this, but it again shows the commitment and depth he manages to bring to even the most potentially one-dimensional of roles. Speaking of which, I'm just going to leave this here:


(I probably should have just said "be nominated for" but oh well.)

In many ways, Skyscraper is reminiscent of White House Down, another piece of building-centric escapist silliness that hit its tropes well and had fun doing so. Maybe it's overly serious in places, and it plays some high stakes games with its ridiculous ending, but for the most part Skyscraper achieves its goals of being large-scale popcorn entertainment.

Add in Johnson's uncanny ability to elevate any movie he's in, and few films will be as the big, dumb, switch-off-you-brain guilty pleasures that this is.

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