Chances are that you already know if you want to see Skyscraper. It is a 1980s style action film with a poster featuring Dwayne Johnson hanging precariously from a building. There isn’t much mystery as to what the appeals of the film are.
Name an action movie, and it is somewhere in the bones of this film. Terrorists hijack the world’s tallest building in Hong Kong—it is three times taller than the Empire State Building—setting it on fire. Trapped inside are Will Sawyer’s (Johnson) wife (Neve Campbell) and two children. He must break into the building, evade the terrorists, and come out with family intact.
It’s that kind of movie. It’s the type of movie that ignores logic, breathes idiocy throughout its runtime, and hopes that the action will have enough steam to cover the stains.
The simplicity of the plot makes for a dull first two acts. Every line of dialogue in the first 15 minutes of the movie is a piece of exposition used to set up twists and turns later on. It is endlessly tedious, and then bodies start hitting the floor. Fast. Again, tedious.
What does prove effective, where most everything else in the film does not, is the high altitude set pieces in which The Rock launches himself in or out of a very tall building. As a person who is afraid of heights, I can say that the way the film captures depth works to add intensity to the deadly scenarios.
That said, the palpable sense that falling is a possibility is not matched with a sense that such a result would happen. The danger that is conjured in these scenes are not exciting or novel—many a time the shocking turn of events involves a piece of the building that is supporting a character’s weight is suddenly wrenched out of place. And it never feels, from a plot standpoint, as if Sawyer could actually plummet to his death.
Skyscraper is dull, and it is dumb. In an early scene, Sawyer is shown the highest floor of the building, which is more or less a hall of mirrors attraction. Sawyer comments on how amazing the room is, even though there isn’t much to it other than, well, mirrors. Of course, this scene is shoe-horned in so that the room can serve its purpose as a location for action later in the movie.
The magical news chopper that can capture every moment of the action as it happens is there to rile up an onlooking audience, because it is the only rapt audience the film is liable to receive. The magical police van is privy to every piece of knowledge they need to have, regardless of plausibility. And the magical fire grows in intensity right as the film needs it to become a dangerous force; otherwise the film is just Die Hard without a marriage problem.
There’s something to like about Skyscraper. The old adage about turning your brain off to enjoy a Summer blockbuster comes to mind, as much as I don’t agree with the perspective. Two to three set pieces use the eponymous building to good effect. Otherwise, it is an empty action experience without character, wit, or intelligence. The experience of seeing the film’s poster is about the same experience as you will get watching the entire film—only, the film takes 100 minutes of your time.
As always, thanks for reading!
Like CineFiles on Facebook for updates on new articles and reviews
Check out my page on Letterboxd
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)