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"The Pearl is the tallest most advanced building in the world. You’ve build a vertical city, but you’ve brought with it every single safety and security challenge that I could think of. Not only have you brought them all indoors, but you’ve trapped them two hundred and forty floors in the air. No one really knows what would happen if things go wrong. But I’m just a glorified security guard, so what the hell do I know anyway?"
Will Sawyer
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Skyscraper is a 2018 action thriller film from director Rawson Marshall Thurber. It stars Dwayne Johnson (marking his second collaboration with Thurber), Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, and Pablo Schreiber.

Will Sawyer (Johnson) is a former FBI agent who is now an amputee following an incident during a hostage situation. Thanks to connections from his friend Ben (Schreiber), Will's small security company landed a large job: signing off on the safety and security settings for The Pearl, a massive skyscraper in Hong Kong with highly advanced technological developments, before the higher-up residential floors are opened for tenants. A terrorist team breaks into the building, trapping Will's wife and kids high up as a fire spreads. Framed for the crime, Will races to save his family and clear his name.

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Think Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno, with a dash of The Fugitive for spice.


Skyscraper contains examples of:

  • Action Mom: Sarah is a surprisingly realistic example. She has two children with Will, and her time in the Navy has ensured she's a skilled fighter, and she's more than willing to use cheap shots or improvised weapons when faced with larger or more highly-trained opponents.
  • Actor Allusion: This isn't the first time Dwayne Johnson's heroic leading man has had to improvise bandages from duct tape. He also did so in Rampage.
  • Adult Fear: A man whose wife and two kids are trapped in a burning building with a bunch of terrorists? You could have a separate page for the trope.
  • Arcology: The Pearl is a gigantic top-of-the-line super-scraper with its own wind generator to provide power independently, as well as its own residential section complete with park and mall. Will and his family, as part of Sawyer's work as a security consultant for the building, move in as its official first inhabitants.
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  • Artistic License – Chemistry: Unless the Pearl's active fire protection systems use chemical components other than CO2, having such extensive systems flood the rooms, already dealing with intense oxygen-consuming blazes, with fire-extinguishing gases would quickly deprive those still inside the building of the remaining oxygen.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Will and his daughter Georgia, especially after the Big Bad calmly tells Will he'll throw Georgia off the roof.
  • Bad Boss: Botha, unsurprisingly. It's implied he sanctioned Skinny Hacker's death as part of his plan, and when Zhao attempts to bargain his way out, requesting a parachute for the MacGuffin, Botha complies by making one of his men give his up at gunpoint, apparently not caring this will leave the man stuck on the roof of a burning skyscraper with no way out.
  • Battle Couple: A long distance example in Sarah and Will. Sarah helps to destroy Botha's plan from outside the Pearl while Will deals with Botha directly. They do share a moment as this trope together when they knock Mr. Pierce off of the bridge.
  • Benevolent Boss: Zhao isn't technically Will's boss, but his actions are this. When everything goes to hell, he tries to get Sawyer's family to safety when he realises they're still in the Pearl, and later co-operates wholeheartedly with Will's plan to save Georgia, even saving his life in the final battle.
  • Big Bad: Kores Botha.
  • Big Bad Friend: When Will tells his best friend and former FBI colleague Ben whom he considers a 'brother' that he removed the tablet from his stolen bag and still has it, Ben laments, drawing his weapon on Will revealing he helped orchestrate the terrorist plot on the building but did not mean for his family to get trapped inside. It’s a bit of a subversion since Ben winds up being the first of the villains to die.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: A device with full admin access to the security system uses a facial biometric scanner as its authentication system. Fortunately, this means that the legitimate user doesn't lose any body parts over this.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Will manages to escape Xia (and the cops) by putting one of Xia’s men into the line of gunfire and slipping into a doorway.
  • The Cameo: Tzi Ma pops up as the Hong Kong fire chief.
  • Call-Back:
    • The line about turning something off and on again is repeated when Sarah does this to the Pearl.
    • Zhao's line, "I'm over there" while Will looks at a screen with him on it is referenced when Will says, "I'm behind you" to Botha, who is doing the same, before killing him.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Will loses his leg to a hostage situation gone wrong - it's what leads him to leave the FBI and become a private security contractor.
  • The Cavalry: Some police show up just in time to save Will from being shot after his tablet is taken.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Will notes the jian sword in Zhao's penthouse, which he puts to use later.
    • Zhao's virtual reality Hall of Mirrors (see below).
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sarah turns out to be fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, putting one over on the police inspectors. It's mentioned earlier that she minored in East Asian languages.
  • Climbing Climax: Multiple, including having to climb the building that holds the construction crane to get into the Pearl and then climbing the outside of the Pearl itself later on.
  • Clear My Name: Will has to do this all by himself, evading police officers to get to the Pearl by crane.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Zhao. He allowed Botha to take his payment, but attached a program that identified every account into which the money went and to whom it belonged so that he could expose them. But on top of that, he anticipated Botha coming back for him after finding this out and built himself a panic penthouse whose only other control could be accessed only from outside the building via the wind power turbines.
  • Dark Action Girl: Botha's female lieutenant Xia. She kills numerous police officers and security guards throughout (including two at the control facility she effortlessly demolishes with a mixture of martial arts and gunfire) and only doesn't kill Sarah due to being distracted by Inspector Wu.
  • Dead Man's Switch: The reason Botha can't just off Zhao, but needs the original drive with its encriptions.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard on a skyscraper (duh!), with the twist that there are elements of The Towering Inferno added as well (gigantic super-tech super-scraper on fire... because the villains were crazy enough to set the building ablaze to keep the cops away).
    • Lampshaded in the deleted scene "Try Hard."
    Zhao: So what's the plan?
    Sawyer: I don't know. Just call [bleep] Bruce Willis.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted with Botha. Will kicks him over a ledge, but he gets blown up by a grenade he's holding. Played straight with Pierce, however.
  • Don't Look Down: Skyscraper pretty much makes this a consistent Running Gag.
  • The Dragon:
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Will uses it to patch up a wound, even remarking that if duct tape isn't working, you need to use more. Later he makes improvised gloves with the adhesive facing outward to help scale the outside towards the wind turbines.
  • Elevator Failure: Though the terrorists may have played a part in this, the elevators won't move automatically.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Ben gives Will's family tickets to see the pandas at night, indicating he didn't want them anywhere near the Pearl when Botha's plan took place. His dying conversation with Will also implies that he didn't want to see Will killed, just ruined.
  • Evil Brit: Mr Pierce, to the point of being almost Obviously Evil.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: With the exception of the opening introduction, the film starts in the morning, the evil plot gets underway in the afternoon, and the main action takes place overnight, all within 24 hours.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Botha is friendly with Sawyer's family when posing as a maintenance worker, right before ordering the fire lit to kill them. Later when he meets Sawyer and his daughter Georgia he give an Ironic Echo to her from their previous meeting. He stops being friendly right afterwards and takes Georgia hostage after beating him up.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Sarah was a Navy doctor who treated FBI Agent Will for his injuries after the hostage situation went bad. Ten years later, they're married with kids.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The international crime syndicates which Botha works for.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Zhao showcases this feature to Will in The Pearl, playing as a key feature in the final battle.
  • Handicapped Badass: Will may be an amputee, but even when his prosthetic is briefly taken from him, he proves he can still kick his opponent's ass.
  • Have You Tried Rebooting?: A Brick Joke with Sarah hesitating to do it to her smartphone at the beginning of the movie, and doing it at the end of the film to the whole skyscraper. Successfully.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Due to the tablet's theft and his biometrics being on it, Will is made the fall guy for the Pearl's fire and the suspected terrorist activity. The news blares the manhunt and Will's face over all channels. Some of the police are suspicious. Inspector Wu is uncertain. But the crowd outside the Pearl watching Will climb a crane and risk his life to get into the building pretty much decide he's the good guy and begin cheering for his every victory. They root for him until he's safely back on the ground.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: After the police arrest Xia, Sarah managed to get her attention and kick her in the face.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Mostly averted. Skinny Hacker requires the already unlocked device with the proper admin credentials to take over the security systems. A Freeze-Frame Bonus shows him running Python scripts. Then it's played straight when he claims he encrypted the system so that only he can unlock it. And then he gets killed by Xia, who's now holding the only device that can control the building's security systems.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Xia's pistol sounds suppressed even though she's never seen using one.
  • Inconvenient Parachute Deployment: One of Botha's goons gets taken out in the climactic fight by Will opening his parachute and letting the jetstream drag him out of one of the holes the villains' grenades have opened on The Pearl.
  • Indy Hat Roll: While hats are not involved in this particular instance, the four remaining goons pursue Will and dive roll under the descending dome into the hall of mirrors video room when chasing after the MacGuffin.
  • I Have Your Wife: Botha takes Will's daughter Georgia away from Will, wanting him to use this as motivation to open the penthouse doors that Zhao is hiding in.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Or Kick the Bitch in this case, as Sarah makes a point of knocking out Xia after she'd surrendered. Given all the people she'd killed by that point, it was well-deserved.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Continuing from above, Xia quickly knew that she had no way out when the lead officer cornered her and had his firearm trained on her.
  • Locked Door: Subverted - Will takes a sledgehammer, intent on using it to open the door to control the crane, then he checks the door and notices it's unlocked.
  • MacGuffin: Zhao's portable hard drive containing the identities and bank accounts of Botha's employers.
  • Made of Iron: All the battering Will takes, and he can still fight. Talk about Heroic WillPower...
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Played ruthlessly straight with the villains. All the dozens of male bad guys are killed off in various ways while Xia, the lone woman is merely momentarily knocked out and then led away in handcuffs.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: Commercials for the movie used a slow cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The "glorified security guard" insult and the page quote clapping back at it don't show in the film at all.
  • Not My Driver: When Zhao attempts to escape, his bodyguard Ajani looks at the helicopter and says "That's not our pilot", leading to a shootout.
  • Precision F-Strike: Botha threatens to throw Georgia "off the fucking roof".
  • Reality Ensues: Zhao tells Will his tablet, once it has his biometric authentication, will give him full admin access to the building. Anyone who works in IT would figure on fingerprint and retina or fingerprint and PIN. But no: a simple scan of his face unlocks the tablet completely. Two factor authentication would've prevented the whole thing.
  • Red Herring: Early on, Zhao mentions to his weaselly insurance advisor that the Pearl has the most lucrative insurance policy of any building on the planet. The audience is thus likely to conclude that Zhao, being a shady multi-billionaire, has himself hired the terrorists to destroy his own building in order to collect the insurance money. Zhao is completely innocent; the insurance guy is the one in on the Evil Plan.
  • Red Shirt Army: More Hong Kong cops die than you'd expect in a high-rise heist movie involving a building that barely has any people in the floors of plot importance.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Inspector Wu is pretty on the ball and willing to give the protagonists the benefit of the doubt.
  • Shout-Out: Aside from the obvious Die Hard references, the final fight with Botha involving a Hall of Mirrors is inspired by Enter the Dragon's climax.
  • Silver Fox: As part of the "too old for this shit" general look that he's supposed to have, Will Sawyer (and thus Dwayne Johnson) has a salt-and-pepper coloring on his beard.
  • Slow Doors: Used twice; the first for Zhang Liao Ji to evade Botha and his henchmen, and the second for Will, who uses his prosthetic to get himself through the doors.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Will and his family both prove this to Ben's attempts to keep things relatively bloodless - Will by keeping the tablet on himself rather than in the bag Ben intended to have stolen in a fake robbery, and his family by returning to the Pearl as Botha's team move in, when they should be seeing pandas at the zoo.
    • Also Zhang's dying bodyguard manages to nail the helicopter pilot, destroying the craft and complicating the villain's escape plan.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: A couple of examples.
    • An external security consultant is given a device with enough privileges to not only control everything, but also to lock out all other admins, including the person who designed the system. The device also lacks a timeout feature, it only needs to be unlocked once to gain full admin access.
    • The security personnel know that a major crime syndicate is after him, yet they do not verify that the helicopter pilot's identity until it's too late.
    • A fake maintenance crew is able to spread flammable powder on an entire floor without raising any suspicion. Noticeable in that this happens before the security facility is taken over.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The janitor who sees a crack appear in the wall. It suddenly becomes a gaping hole, very quietly. And he goes to investigate as if he were remotely prepared to deal with whatever did this. He's dead in seconds thanks to the henchmen.
  • The Tower: The Pearl.
  • Unflinching Walk: When the police arrive to interrupt her stealing the tablet from Will, Xia calmly and relatively unhurriedly walks back to her vehicle as a major gunfight erupts, not even breaking stride as she shoots back.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Although they managed to survive the failed hostage rescue, Ben turned over to the dark side, feeling that his buddy Will 'got lucky' from it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Botha threatens to throw Georgia off the roof and also later on, threatens to blow her up if Will doesn't give him the hard drive.
    • Also at the beginning of the film, with the failed hostage rescue, the man who detonates his bomb vest with his son present.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Skinny Hacker after hacking into The Pearl's security system. Xia simply shoots him.

"My family is the only thing that matters to me right now."
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