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Review: ‘Skyscraper’ Throws Plausibility Out the Penthouse Window for the Sake of Sheer Entertainment

July 12, 2018Ben MK

The disaster movie is a formidable beast. Once a staple of '70s cinema, the genre seemingly fell out of favor for years, only to return with a vengeance during the mid-90s, thanks to directors like Roland Emmerich. But did disaster films ever really go away?

In Skyscraper, Dwayne Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader who lost part of his leg on the job ten years earlier. But if it hadn't been for that loss, Will wouldn't have gained a loving family, marrying the doctor who helped save his life, Sarah (Neve Campbell), and having twins, Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell), with her. Now, Will is a security consultant who's been recommended by one of his former colleagues (Pablo Schreiber) to assess the safety of the world's newest, tallest building.

Towering 3,500 feet above the busy streets of Hong Kong, the Pearl is not only the planet's tallest free-standing structure, it's also the most advanced. Boasting state-of-the-art features like energy-generating wind turbines, a vertical garden and a rooftop augmented reality experience, and equipped with a seemingly impenetrable security system to protect the multi-level shopping plaza housed on its lower floors and the residential quarters that comprise its upper floors, the Pearl is arguably as secure as it is impressive. But there's a critical flaw that makes it vulnerable, and it's one that Skyscraper's antagonists are out to exploit.

Of course, there's one thing the bad guys didn't count on — and that's Will's family being trapped inside while a raging fire rapidly makes its way up towards them from the building's midpoint. Framed for causing the blaze, Will must now evade capture by the local police and find a way to make his way into the burning skyscraper to rescue his family, saving the Pearl's creator, super-rich entrepreneur Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), and stopping a ruthless terrorist named Kores Botha (Roland Møller) in the process, while on the ground Police Inspector Wu (Byron Mann) works to unravel an emerging mystery.

Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who previously teamed with Johnson for the 2016 action-comedy Central Intelligence, Skyscraper is packed with nail-biting scenes that push the boundaries of plausibility. Case in point: in what will no doubt become the movie's signature sequence, Will must scale a construction crane bare-handed and then take a running leap off of it in an attempt to reach one of the Pearl's rooms, which has been made accessible via a shattered window. Suffice to say, even for the man known as the Rock — who has deflected a missile with his bare hands while hanging out of a moving vehicle — it's a bit of a stretch.

On the other hand, Johnson's co-stars, which include Noah Taylor and Hannah Quinlivan, help bring a degree of emotional believability to the film, especially Campbell, who proves to be more than just a damsel in distress herself. But while it's great to see Campbell's character take on a more active role in fighting back against the movie's villains, at the same time it's also a shame to see Byron Mann essentially wasted in his, as Thurber's script affords Mann absolutely zero opportunity to showcase his martial arts skills.

It may seem like it all adds up to something of a mixed bag, but things ultimately skew in the film's favor. Combining the action of Die Hard with the spectacle of The Towering Inferno, Skyscraper may be far-fetched, but if you're a fan of Dwayne Johnson, you can't beat the Rock versus a burning building for sheer entertainment value.

Skyscraper releases July 13th, 2018 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 42 min.

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