Monday, June 17, 2019

Skyscraper is a Roller Coaster of a Movie

I can't think of a more by-the-numbers spectacle movie than Skyscraper...and it's absolutely thrilling

Yes, it's Die Hard in a taller building. It's Die Hard in which the good guy has to get *into* the building. It's a little bit Jurassic Park ("Spared no expense"). Most every beat you can think of is in this movie. I knew most of them going in. Imagine you are writing this script. What would you put in?

Don't care. Enjoyed the film.

Heck, in some of the scenes getting into the building actually induced the queasy-in-my-stomach feeling I always get when standing on a high place. I can imagine watching this film on the big screen, maybe in 3D, and experience actual vertigo.

Dawayne Johnson plays, Will Sawyer, an FBI agent who, in the opening prelude, leads a hostage situation. His decision kills some of his fellows, causes him to injure his leg which leads to amputation below the knee, and makes him rethink his life. That life, ten years later, includes his wife, a combat surgeon played by Neve Campbell, and his twin children.

Johnson has been recruited by one of his former partners to provide a security analysis of The Pearl, the world's tallest  skyscraper. The owner, Zhao Long Ji, needs the security analysis for insurance purposes. Will brings his family along as the first people who will live in the residential area of the tower. He's spent six months studying the layouts and plans and knows the tower inside and out.

Which is exactly what he'll need when things go haywire. As part of the plan, Will is given a tablet with facial recognition. Once activated, only he can use it. The tablet controls everything. So it is a good thing the thief who stole Will's bag didn't get the tablet because it was in Will's jacket.

But the bad guys soon get it after Will's buddy reveals himself to be on the take. Cut to the bad guys starting a fire midway up the tower and they disable all the anti-fire protocols. What do you now how? A towering inferno. Where is Will? Outside the tower, wanted by the police. Where is his family? Inside the building because one of the kids didn't feel well and they returned to the apartment.

All of this is to say you have Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno...except the hero has to get inside the burning building. From a crane. That he has to jump across the void to get into the busted window.

Yeah, those high scenes are definitely thrilling. I even sat  up on the couch, knowing full well Johnson was going to make it, but still reveling in the moment. That's the kind of movie this is: a roller coaster. When you stand in line at the amusement park, waiting for your turn on the roller coaster, you have all that time to watch others ride the ride, hear the screams, and your anticipation builds. That's exactly what you get with Skyscraper.

Oh, and this is a spoiler, but who cares: Johnson's character doesn't fire a gun. At about the halfway mark, I made this realization, and then hoped he wouldn't have to shoot anyone. He didn't. Instead he relied on his brains and his brawn. I found that quite refreshing, as I did the emphasis on family.

Skyscraper is a roller coaster of a film, complete with high, death-defying twists and turns, that'll leave you heart beating just a little faster. It knows what kind of movie it is, understands that, and gives you all you want.

Oh, another fun game? Trying to name some of the visual beats of the film with their inspirations. Example: In Die Hard, the moment when the cop gets the radio call to check out Nakatomi Plaza, he looks up at the darkened building and sees the firefight then ongoing, via gun flashes, on the roof. There's a scene like that in Skyscraper.

No comments: