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“Skyscraper”: A big adventure needs a big guy!

Updated: Oct 14, 2018


Amputee Will Sawyer (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) climbs construction scaffolding to the 96th floor of The Pearl to save his family in "Skyscraper." (4K frame shots courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment)


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018; PG-13 for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief, strong profanity; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube

Best extra: Commentary by Producer/Writer/Director Rawson Marshall Thurber

IN THE MOOD for total action-adventure? Writer/Director Rawson Marshall Thurber pulls out all the action tropes for “Skyscraper.”  

He confesses he scooped a little from the “Die Hard” films and “The Towering Inferno” (1974). He was inspired by “Indiana Jones” as a boy, and any adventure with Harrison Ford since. But it was the unique opening sequence from Sylvester Stallone’s “Cliffhanger” (1993) that drove him to make “Skyscraper,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Neve Campbell.

Johnson is one of the hardest working actors today; we can always count on him to deliver. Here he plays U.S. Marine veteran and FBI Hostage Team leader Will Sawyer. Recovering from a mission gone wrong, his left leg has been amputated below the knee. In recovery, he met, then married veteran medic Sarah Sawyer (Campbell). They have two children Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell).

U.S. Marine veteran and FBI Hostage Team leader Sawyer tries to end an escalating domestic disturbance.

Cinematographer Robert Elswit, Oscar winner for "There Will Be Blood," used digital cameras to film "Skyscraper" finished in 2.39:1 ratio.

Sawyer meets his wife-to-be while being wheeled into surgery.

It’s not easy for an audience to believe The Rock could be physically challenged. “I think everybody who’s familiar with Dwayne’s work knows he can pick up a dump truck and throw it through a brick wall,” Thurber says in “Dwayne Johnson: Embodying a Hero,” one of five bonus features on both the Ultra 4K and Blu-ray discs from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Jeff Glasbrenner, the first American amputee to climb Mount Everest, three-time Paralympian, and motivational speaker, was Johnson’s guide and consultant on the film.

Now retired, Sawyer has left guns and weapons behind to operate a security assessment business. He’s hired to evaluate safety measures for the world’s tallest building, a brand new skyscraper called The Pearl in Hong Kong. The trouble begins after he assures architect/owner Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) the building is secure. A team of bad guys led by Køres Botha (Roland Moller of “Atomic Blonde” and “Commuter”) set the 96th floor on fire, then disarm the fire extinguishing system. Sawyer’s wife and children become trapped there. Even though he’s detained by police directed by Inspector Wu (Byron Mann) assisted by Sergeant Han (Elfina Luk), he escapes to go rescue his family climbing up via construction scaffolding and leaping from a crane into the blazing building.

In the movie, The Pearl is 3,500 feet tall - 783 feet over the actual world's tallest building, the 2717 foot tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It was designed by Production Designer Jim Bissell with input from architect Burj Khalifa designer Adrian Smith. He was inspired by an ancient, phoenix-like Chinese fable about the dragon and the pearl, The body resembles a twisting dragon with a pearl in its mouth.

Sarah Sawyer (Neve Campbell) reassures her husband as he leaves to meet owner/builder Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) of The Pearl, his new boss.

The Sawyer children, Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell).

Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) and his assistant and insurance representative.

Sawyer and Zhao pass through The Pearl's room of mirrors.

The walls of The Pearl itself on the topmost floor disappear to show Hong Kong above and below.

Vulnerable amputee. Right. Still and all, mountaineer and athlete Glasbrenner himself might have been able to do it if he had all that upper-body muscle. I can’t image Bruce Willis or Ford managing it. 

Once inside, all Sawyer has to do is save his family, rescue his boss, and prove his innocence.


Wow – this 2160p transfer looks great, easily surpassing the 1080p, with excellent HDR toning, natural skin tones among its international cast, sharp detail and texture, and bold contrast. Filmed in Hong Kong and British Columbia, the story is set at night, with all those flames looking fierce against the sky. Even the The Pearl’s nighttime interior shots have a twilight appearance. It’s a good mood-setter.

Daylight scenes are also good. The park inside The Pearl is filled with luscious greens; blue skies and city streets are vibrant and enticing. Sawyer and Zhao step into a special room where the walls and floor “disappear” leaving them to stand over the city from the top of The Pearl. It’s a dizzying moment for The Rock and viewers. A room full of mirrors glistens and reflects realistically.

Interior and exterior wide-shots show good background detail. Street crowd scenes, where people watch Sawyer in action from below and on broadcast, are especially good.

A street thug tries to steal Sawyer's security access to The Pearl at a Hong Kong commuter station, while his friend Ben (Pablo Schreiber) tries to help.

Hannah Quinlivan plays icy assassin Xia.

Sarah drops her cell phone, while Will watches the flames rise.

Detained by police, Sawyer helplessly calls out to his family trapped on the blazing 96th floor.

Those on the streets below watch amputee Sawyer's ascent towards The Pearl.

Sawyer makes his way up. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack delivers great height effects providing an all-encompassing audio experience.


The Dolby Atmos soundtrack also excels sending clear dialogue, effects and a suspenseful/energetic score throughout the room. Blazing flames, gunshots and explosions resonate perfectly from height speakers. Balance is outstanding between dialogue, effects and music. Steve Jablonsky (“Deepwater Horizon,” “Transformers,” 2007) composed the score.

The default eight channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is also terrific.


Universal packs them in. In addition to Thurber’s lively commentary – a fine accompaniment for any movie fan – and “Embodying a Hero,” there are deleted and extended scenes that can be watched with or without commentary.

“Friends No More” highlights the gritty, complicated fight scene between Johnson and Pablo Schreiber, Emmy nominated for his role in “Orange is the New Black.” Schreiber is taller than Johnson’s 6-foot-5, but not quite as muscle heavy. It’s a good match. Supervising Stunt and Fight Coordinator Allan Poppleton (“San Andreas,” “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away,” “The Hunger Games”) says the actors did 80 to 90 percent of their own stunts.

Sergeant Han (Elfina Luk) and Inspector Wu (Byron Mann) track Sawyer's movements from a mobile police unit below. "Skyscraper's" dialogue is bilingual, with a version made in English and another in Cantonese. Mann introduced writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber to a native police consultant. "I wanted to make an authentic movie, so when its screened for Chinese audiences, they feel they got it right," Mann told

Outlaw Køres Botha (Roland Moller) threatens Zhao.

Sarah tries to carry her son to safety.

Mr. Pierce (Noah Taylor) takes Sarah hostage.

“Opposing Forces” takes on the fight between Campbell’s Sarah Sawyer and a member of Botha’s gang. “We were looking to cast Xia, this ice-cold lady assassin, and I was watching a bunch of audition tapes,” Thurber says. “I put in Hannah Quinlivan’s tape, and she just had a baby. Her husband was pushing her in a wheelchair in the hospital, and she held out two guns and was firing them and was saying all the lines. I was just like, ‘Whoever this is I gotta have her in my movie.’”

A former dancer, Campbell took to the fight choreography like a natural. She makes a believable teammate for Johnson’s Sawyer; no one’s going to harm her family!

“Inspiration” covers Glasbrenner’s accomplishments; “Kids in Action” interviews McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell; and “Pineapple Pitch” reveals Thurber’s pitch to Johnson, and The Rock’s playful response.

Is “Skyscraper” on a level with “Die Hard” and “Cliffhanger”? Not really, mostly because we’re so familiar with the actioner category by now. It entertains and it’s got a lot of heart.

“I love that [The Rock] takes the work seriously, but not himself seriously. There’s no diva nonsense with him,” Thurber says. He also worked with Johnson in “Central Intelligence” (2016).

“I’ve really been a lucky son of a bitch to have the career that I’ve had and been able to play some characters that have been pretty memorable over the years. Some not so memorable,” Johnson says with a smile. “We made a great movie with ‘Skyscraper’ that I’m extremely proud of.”

Have fun with it – and enjoy that 4K presentation!

— Kay Reynolds

Sarah and Will, reunited on the edge of death.





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