Dwayne Johnson might be the hardest working actor in Hollywood and audiences are reaping the rewards. Yes, there are few duds here and there, but his immense talent and vibrant personality will always make up for a bad script or poor directing. Thankfully, Skyscraper is one of the good ones. Johnson teams up with Central Intelligence director Rawson Marshall Thurber once again but this time, Johnson is on a mission to save his family from a burning skyscraper.
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, an ex-FBI agent who has laid down his weapons due to a horrible incident which left him as an amputee. Johnson is now in Hong Kong with his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and two bright children, Georgia and Henry (McKenna Roberts & Noah Cottrell). He has been tasked to assess the safety of the new super tall structure, The Pearl, for mega-rich businessman Zhao Long Ji (Chin Lin). Sawyer’s successful security assessment meeting with Zhao leads him right into a nefarious plan to sabotage The Pearl.
Skyscraper does evoke some of the great films before it, specifically, Die Hard. The plot is simple and easy to follow and the action delivers. Instead of a “cowboy cop” in the middle of the action, we have a family man who is more desperate than funny. This, however, does not take away from the enjoyment of the film. Watching Sawyer’s desperate attempts to clear his name and save his family is riveting, especially with Johnson in the lead role. A less charismatic actor would have severely harmed the the movie’s likability.
The cast is fantastic across the board, especially Neve Campbell as Sarah – an ex-combat doctor, who is just as badass as her husband. Campbell’s terrific performance makes you wonder why no one has given her more action films to star in; it’s really a shame. Hopefully, casting directors check this out to see that Campbell is very likeable and formidable in her moments of being an action heroine. The remaining cast does an excellent job with what they are given. However, there is something to be said about the choice of actors. Considering the setting, everyone (with the exception of Sawyer and his family) could have been Asian. It’s a small complaint, but it is particularly strange that with an abundance of films taking place in Asia there aren’t many opportunities to showcase Asian talent. If you are the type of person who isn’t bothered by this you won’t notice a thing and your experience will be uninterrupted, but if you are – you might find yourself thinking about it throughout the movie. Chin Lin and Byron Mann (who plays the Sgt. Al Powell role here) are severely underutilized. The strikingly beautiful & badass Hannah Quinlivan is relegated to the henchwoman role, but she could have been the central villain, instead of Roland Møller. Aside, from that everyone does their job in creating a thrilling action film.
Thurber does his best behind the camera and has some fantastic moments sprinkled throughout the movie. The beginning sequence is especially notable due to his use of a reverse tracking shot that reveals a harrowing scene. There are several instances of a very capable and inspired director behind the camera. However, there is a lot of growth to be had, especially in the few hand-to-hand combat scenes. Thurber relies too much on cuts and the disjointed fights seem rushed. With films like John Wick reinventing fight scenes, audiences deserve to actually see the fight and not receive jumbled shots of a fight.
Thurber could have also given us more of the tower. There is very little time given to exploring the whole of the structure and getting a sense of the place and where everyone is. Die Hard was in an office building, a setting that is familiar and did not need to be explored too much. The Pearl is a utopia, a vision for the future and the lack of time dedicated to understanding Zhao’s vision for his skyscraper takes away from the experience. The film comes in at 1h 49m, so 10-15 minutes of Sawyer going through the building could have given us the sense of space we need when all hell breaks loose. Perhaps his security assessment meeting could have taken place during a walkthrough of the building. Regardless, these flaws are very minor and are just a few examples of where Thurber could have bumped the movie from a B+ to an A- or A. Skyscraper is a very solid movie, which captures your attention from the very first frame and keeps you engaged throughout.
In conclusion, Skyscraper is the perfect summer action flick. It has intense action, high stakes, a great performance from Johnson and heart. The emotional core of this film really sells the danger and the final moments of this film may make you cry. Johnson is a star and Skyscraper showcases just how brilliant he is in making you feel the genuine pain and danger our protagonist and his family are in. It feels amazing to have a star who is so dedicated to giving his audience a great time at the movies. Go see Skyscraper, it’s great.