Monday, July 16, 2018

Film Review: Skyscraper

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

Dwayne Johnson is one of the most charismatic and likeable action stars around.  And this movie will not change that at all.  But this movie cannot help but feel like a lesser remake of Die Hard.

Skyscraper is about Will Sawyer (Johnson), who lost his leg while leading a team of FBI agents into a hostage rescue gone wrong.  Ten years later he is married to his surgeon wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) with two little kids (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell).  He has made an arrangement to make a pitch for his struggling security company at the Pearl, a 200-story Hong Kong high rise built by billionaire Chin Han (Zhao Long Ji).  In the processes of his security assessment, he is given sole access to the building's safety system, which is exactly what the bad guys, led by Kores Botha (Roland Moller), want.  The villains set the 96th floor on fire, which places Will's wife and children in danger as he has to race back and save his family.

Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber does an admirable job with creating a visual action spectacle.  He is able to make the hulking Johnson seem like the underdog in his race to save his family.  And as someone who is scared of heights, he uses the precipitous locations to full effect.  Watching Johnson swing from dangling bars 100 stories up from the ground was something that put me on the edge.  He also uses some nice claustrophobic single takes as the conspiracy begins to close in around him.  And with a location as large as this, Thurber is able to orient the audience so that they can always know where the characters are in relation to the building, which is important for a movie like this.

The major problem with the film is that it feels dumbed-down for the audience.  Within two seconds of one character appearing on screen, I turned to my wife and said, "He's the bad guy."  And this applied a few other times.  This is a movie without any subtlety.

And while Campbell proves to be capable at Johnson's level both in empathy and action, the rest of the cast make no similiar impression.  It's times like this that you truly appreciate the genius of Die Hard and it's main villain Hans Grueber.  Alan Rickman's performance in that movie is legendary for so many reasons.  He was alternately terrifying, funny, cool, and conciliatory.  Part of you was a little happy when he was able to open the Nakotmi vault.  Now, I know it isn't fair to Thurber to compare his film to the masterpiece of Die Hard, but he did place himself on this dangerous ground should know that the comparisons would be inevitable.  The villains in this movie are one-note and forgettable.  I could not tell you their names by memory.

The story itself lacks most logic for its set pieces except that the story demands it.  Early we are introduced to a room with giant flat screen monitors that pop out from the floor.  Why?  What possible purpose could such a labrything of screens have for everyday use?  The answer, of course, is "none."  They are there simply to have a finale that feels like a modern version of the final fight from Enter the Dragon.

But the movie does work.  This is not only because of the above stunt pieces I mentioned, but that it also touches on the primary elements of family.  At one point Johnson was getting ready to jump a 10-yard gap in the sky to get into the building to save his family.  My wife turned to me and said, "I would do that for you."  A movie like this arouses those kinds of feelings and makes you hope that your own level of heroism would rise to the level of someone like Sawyer and that you could take that leap of faith into the fires.

A sign of a fun movie is that it holds your attention the entire time and makes you feels something.  The sign of a great movie is if you cannot stop replaying it in your head with wonder.  On that basis, Skyscraper is not a great movie, but it is a fun one.

image by Yasir72,multan

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