Skyscraper review: Dwayne Johnson takes to the world’s tallest building for his latest action movie – in cinemas July 12th.

Skyscraper review by Andrew Gaudion.

Skyscraper review
Skyscraper review

An ideal summer blockbuster should be designed to be the kind of movie that treats you kindly after a long summer’s day. The kind of film that knows you’ve been out enjoying the sun all day, so you’re probably a little tired and don’t want to be tested too much. It knows you don’t want to be getting home too late so it’s going to keep things tight, efficient and breezy. The type of blockbuster that leaves you smiling as you leave the theatre, happy to have sat in a dark room for the last two hours or so. I’m happy to report that Skyscraper fills your undemanding blockbuster needs in a highly entertaining and old school capacity.

Dwayne Johnson stars as Will Sawyer, an ex-FBI Agent and Chief Hostage Negotiator who suffered a traumatic incident 10 years ago, one which has left him with an artificial leg. In present day, Will, now a married man and father of two, works as a security adviser. He lands the job of assessing the security functions of the tallest building in the world, the high-tech Goliath that is The Pearl in Hong Kong. When assessing the building, Will is framed as the skyscraper comes under siege from a group of terrorists set fire to The Pearl, with Will’s family still inside. He’s going to save them, by any means necessary. 

Skyscraper review
Skyscraper review

It is not hard to see where Skyscraper’s influences lie. The film has been very much set up as ‘The Rock’s Die Hard’, with the muscle-bound ex-wrestler essentially taking on an amped-up version of the Nakatomi Plaza. The film makes no attempts to hide from this comparison, with many of The Pearl’s features being based after similar areas of Nakatomi, from a garden room with water feature to floors still under-construction. It also owes a debt to 90’s action thrillers (think Cliffhanger), disaster classic The Towering Inferno (for obvious reasons) and even the likes of Enter the Dragon get a visual nod in the action sequences.

Skyscraper drawing obvious attention to classics of the action genre can work against its favour, setting itself an impossible task of matching up to some of the finest action films ever made. So yes, it doesn’t have the structural efficiency of Die Hard or its wit, but it doe carve enough of an identity that is its own, thanks to the fun tongue-in-cheek approach to action and its leading man.

Related: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle review

Playing to family values has very much become a priority of Johnson’s cinematic offerings of late. Never has that been stronger here, as his character’s sole driving motivation is his family. While this can come across as cheesy, the relationships forged here amongst the family dynamic are so charming that you come to accept and believe Will’s motivation all that much more. Johnson has a winning chemistry with Neve Campbell (a refreshing aspect of a lot of Johnson’s work is that he often shares the screen with a female co-star similar to his own age), with Campbell getting a decent amount of action beats all her own, while the kids never stray into precociousness. Johnson himself puts across a quieter, less obviously macho performance (despite when key action moments call for it) than the likes of his role in the Fast & Furious franchise.

Skyscraper review
Skyscraper review

Rawson Marshall Thurber, of Dodgeball and Central Intelligence, may not have the same skill as the likes of John McTiernan when it comes to his action sequences, but he has enough care in production design and visual effects to allow the film to carry a level of solid craft, design and construction to accompany its setting. The film also carries with it a sense of mischief as it rockets from one tense, engaging and silly set piece to the other with a great deal of energy, never allowing the pace to slacken for too long. It’s all over by 100 minutes, which feels very refreshing in a sea of blockbusters which clock close to two and a half hours.

It would never claim to be original, or all that clever. But that’s not what a film like Skyscraper is striving to be. It is a success in delivering a well-made escape that locks you in your seat and gives you a slap on the back as it says ‘enjoy the ride.’ It’s a film that carries itself with a humorous sense of confidence and aplomb. If you’re looking for anything different than that then you’re barking up the wrong multi-storied building, son.

Skyscraper review by Andrew Gaudion, July 2018.

Skyscraper is released in UK cinemas on Thursday 12th July 2018.