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film review

Neve Campbell and Dwayne Johnson in Skyscraper.Kimberley French

  • Title: Skyscraper
  • Written by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han
  • Classification: 14A; 102 minutes


1 out of 4 stars

There’s a scene in Skyscraper in which something ridiculous is about to happen.

Let me start again.

In one of the many scenes in Skyscraper in which something ridiculous is about to happen, Dwayne Johnson’s character assures one of his hesitant, doubtful children: “For you to be brave,” Daddy says, “you gotta be a little scared.”

Naturally, the child is assured. Not because the child believes him, but because what he says doesn’t make any sense. It’s the kind of thing that would only be said in a movie, and if the kid’s in a movie with The Rock, the kid knows they’re going to be okay.

Everything is going to be okay, actually. The only things that do not survive Skyscraper are the bad guys and the audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief for ever after.

Buying into Skyscraper is a tall order – more than 200 floors high, which is the height of the newly built tallest building in the world, the film’s centre of action. It’s where the bullets fly, it’s where a harrowing fire erupts, and it’s where Johnson’s dead-serious hero defies goons, gravity, self-preservation and the human body’s limitations.

Filmed in Vancouver and directed by Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story filmmaker Rawson Marshall Thurber, Skyscraper itself defies gravity – and plain sense, and humour, and self-awareness, and most things even a dumb, hot-buttered blockbuster would have even a little of. Part Die Hard, part The Towering Inferno, even as a noisy slab of summer escapism Skyscraper survives no building inspection.

The tall tale concerns itself with Johnson’s Will Sawyer, an ex-FBI agent whose lower left leg was blown off in a family hostage crisis that went wrong a decade earlier. He’s a small-potatoes security expert (with a Navy surgeon wife – Neve Campbell – and two adorable children) curiously hired to consult on the safety of the gleaming heaven-touching Hong Kong structure that’s half-empty as the building’s residential units are readied for occupancy. The only people actually living in the skyscraper are the penthouse-dwelling developer (played by Singaporean star Chin Han) and Sawyer and his family.

Dwayne Johnson leads the cast of Skyscraper.Legendary Picture

British-Australian actor Noah Taylor plays the building’s underwriter, and if this minor character’s sheer creepiness doesn’t raise your antenna that something sinister is afoot, I’ve got an insurance policy on a Brooklyn bridge to sell you.

Little time is wasted in getting things moving, with no bother given to let the audience in on why any of the chicanery is happening. Eventually all is revealed, but none of it really matters.

The short of it is this: Sawyer, with a prosthetic leg, greying beard, various fresh wounds and occasional duct-tape jokes, needs to save his family from a burning building and a (naturally) Scandinavian villain.

The amputee Sawyer jumps from cranes and climbs like a mountain goat with vise-grip hands, and none of it seems to tax him at all. Luckily he has the third lung that only action characters played by Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone possess.

Some would say that expecting realism from an action-disaster film is, well, an unrealistic expectation. Apparently some never saw the underwater scene in The Poseidon Adventure in which Shelley Winters performed her own stunt! No computer magic there; we saw it happen. Unfortunately, some found Kevin Dillon’s hilarious Texas accent in the 2006 Poseidon remake to be believable, and now think anything goes.

What doesn’t go in Skyscraper is watching Sawyer and his family face staggering calamity and danger with barely a concern raised or a sweat broken. As for the actors portraying them, they’re the brave ones. And if they were scared, they didn’t show it.