Dwayne Johnson has a knack for choosing big-budget action films with an emotional core to them. In the Fast and the Furious series (which he joined in the fifth installment), there’s an emphasis on family. In this year’s Rampage, there’s a focus on the relationship that the hero (played by Johnson, of course) shares with an ape. Skyscraper is no different.
The new thriller pits Johnson’s character against a group of terrorists who threaten his family.
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former Marine Corps officer. Sawyer earned a Bronze Star in the military and went on to serve in the FBI. During a tragic hostage standoff, Sawyer is wounded — leaving the veteran with a metallic leg. Sawyer grew from that experience, eventually getting married and starting a family.
His role as a security expert leads him to Hong Kong, where he’s tasked with inspecting the biggest skyscraper in the world, a building that reporters note is three times the size of the Empire State Building. Of course, the building isn’t infallible and when terrorists attempt to take it over, Sawyer realizes he must protect his family.
A mix of The Towering Inferno (1974) and Die Hard (1988), Skyscraper still manages to etch out its own identity. Sawyer, for one, is a unique protagonist. As a military hero who thrives with a metallic leg, this is a man who has known setbacks but hasn’t let them discourage him. Aside from his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell), who met Sawyer when she treated him in the hospital, few people seem to know about his injury.
That injury never slows him down.
When the skyscraper is eventually attacked, Sawyer is blocks away from the building. In a pulse-pounding sequence, he climbs up a crane and plans to leap Into the building. Audiences know how scenes like this will end and yet, the filmmakers build great tension in showing Sawyer’s journey. Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber sets up sequences like this nicely, cutting between Sawyer’s actions and shots showing his altitude.
We know what’s at risk and how dangerous the feat is and even if we know that Sawyer will survive, it’s hard not to get caught up in dramatic moments like this.
The feature is greatly aided by Johnson — whose natural charisma continues to resonate onscreen — and his co-star Neve Campbell. Fans of Campbell, who stared in the Scream series and co-starred on Party of Five, should find something to like about her role here. Sarah, who spends most of her time onscreen with her daughter Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Noah (Noah Cottrell) is a veteran like her husband and has plenty of great scenes here, showing her ability to fight back against her attackers.
The film’s villain Kores Botha (Roland Møller) never really stands out and some of the plot does feel tired, especially for those who have seen Die Hard before. A better set-up would’ve definitely elevated the stakes here.
However, there’s a lot of fun to he had in this big-budget B-movie, which features Johnson once again playing a sarcastic action hero. “If you can’t fix it with duct tape, then you ain’t using enough duct tape,” he says.
Much of the movie’s greatest strengths comes from the excitement on display in some of the film’s biggest action scenes and some of the ridiculous aspects of it (an action sequence involving a turbine comes to mind). If you’re looking for something exciting and highly-enjoyable, Skyscraper is definitely worth a watch.
Review by: John Hanlon