One of the most intriguing conundrums of the narratives we tell ourselves is the need for realism. If a story isn’t believable, audiences will not invest their time and attention to its characters or plot. But what is meant by realism in regards to telling a narrative? It is not a demand that the movies or books adhere to strict real-world applications of physics, logic, or only be about actual issues.
Instead, it is a request that there be an internal logic to everything that plays out. For example, if magic is commonplace within the world presented and the characters don’t use it at a crucial moment, there needs to be an explanation as to why otherwise the characters look stupid, and the screenwriters appear lazy.
Inferno: Skyscraper Escape (aka Crystal Inferno) begins with a head-scratching bout of nonsensicalness that does not work in this serious-minded disaster flick. Brianna Bronson (Claire Forlani) is a structural engineer who has just finished assessing the preliminary security features on a new skyscraper in Paris. Lucas (Nigel Barber) and Eric (Atanas Srebrev), the unethical businessmen building the tower, agree to have her continue on the team for further consulting. Only for them to set up Brianna to make it appear she is having an affair. These pictures make their way to Tom (Jamie Bamber), Brianna’s husband.
She quits the job in Paris to spend more time with her husband and kids, Anne (Riley Jackson) and Ben (Isaac Rouse), in Antwerp. This plan does not rebuild trust as hoped, Brianna and Tom meet with lawyers to sign divorce papers. Coincidentally, Tom’s lawyer is in the very skyscraper that Brianna was working on before all this happened. In the office on the 60th floor, the proceedings are just getting underway when a gas leak on the 20th floor causes an explosion and sets the skyscraper on fire.
“…murdered and bribed their way to make the building as cheaply as possible…”
Of course, Anne and Ben discover that the pictures were staged and are in an elevator on the way up to see their parents when the fire erupts. As the fire rages on, Lucas and Eric, who have murdered and bribed their way to make the building as cheaply as possible, clear their offices and await their helicopter to rescue them. Will the kids get saved? Will Tom discover the truth about the photos? Does the audience care at all?
Now, on to that logical gap. Lucas and Eric have no reason to keep Brianna on after her initial consultation. Her boss asks if she is staying and they answer yes. But why? Ultimately, their endgame is to remove her, so the fact that they cut corners and did not install all the safety features remains a secret. To remove her, they concoct a scheme that is convoluted and ridiculous even by the worst Bond villain standards. All of this could have been handled much more sensibly by them merely choosing not to continue with her on the team, as, again, what they hired her for concludes at the beginning of the movie. It is manufactured drama that pads out the already seemingly lengthy runtime.
Inferno: Skyscraper Escape is written by Regina Luvitt, her only credit to date, and Phillip J. Roth, of numerous awesomely silly Sci-Fi channel movies, and is disappointing on all fronts. It is not only that main antagonists are cartoon characters whose every move does not make sense in the more grounded reality of the bulk of the story; it is also that the thrust of the story is rather dull, with only two side characters having an engaging arc. The main plot of the family staying together, or not, and the parents’ attempts at rescuing their kids never generate thrills or drama.
This is because everyone has one trait and that is all. Tom is angry at his wife’s supposed affair, the kids are annoyed that the divorce is happening, the bad guys are after money, and then there is the receptionist in the main lobby and his love for the secretary on the 60th floor. They are adorable and fun, and this plot works.
“…gas leak on the 20th floor causes an explosion and sets the skyscraper on fire…”
Eric Summer’s credits include extensive directing work on several French shows as well as the lackluster family animated movie Leap! (to be fair, apparently, the uncut, European release, Ballerina is better). While some shot choices are unconventional and highlight the peril the characters face, there is never any forward momentum or sense of urgency. The movie is shot in the most journeyman-like, point, shoot, move on way possible.
Most of the issues contained within Inferno: Skyscraper Escape would be forgivable, or at least easier to ignore if the audience could empathize with the characters. But, since the acting is, for the most, reprehensible, that isn’t an option. Claire Forlani is good and seems to be the only trying to sell both the drama and the action in any way. She’s given nothing to work with, but she is trying. Bamber, as the put-upon husband, looks bored to tears and conveys as much emotional honesty as a wet paper bag.
Barber and Srebrev play their unscrupulous roles as boringly as possible. Every line is flat, which makes their absurd plan even more awkward. However, it is the two kids, Riley Jackson and Isaac Rouse, that give the worst performances of the movie; and quite possibly of the year. Both of them come across as entitled brats, that only know how to whine and tease each other. They are obnoxious and unbearable.
Inferno: Skyscraper Escape is too serious to join the ranks of Quantum Apocalypse or Ice Quake as a goofy, dumb, but ultimately enjoyable b-movie disaster flicks. The characters are one-note (and that’s being charitable), the directing is bland, and there is never a sense of danger. All that makes for a dull viewing experience, with most of the acting being the same.
Inferno: Skyscraper Escape (2018) Directed by Eric Summer. Written by Regina Luvitt, Phillip J. Roth. Starring Claire Forlani, Jamie Bamber, Isaac Rouse, Riley Jackson, Nigel Barber, Atanas Srebrev.
3 Gummi Bears (out of 10)