“Don’t you get it? We are at war!”
When Skyline was first previewed it did not create high expectation. This was partly due to the fact that the directors had no experience in the chair except for several mainstream music videos. The ‘Brothers Strause’, Colin and Greg, made their names through special effects for blockbuster films such as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and The Day After Tomorrow. Deciding to try their hand at full control they teamed up with writers Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell. Unfortunately, apart from special effects themselves, the writers had even less experience than the brothers. Despite this however, Skyline has still managed to capture the attention of cinema goers.
The action starts as a group of boys and girls wake up just before sunrise to a blinding light coming in through the window. This bluish beam hypnotises its victim and renders them helpless to resist. One of them disappears into the light and the rest are left confused and afraid. The story then jumps back 15 hours earlier in an attempt to build up background on the characters before returning to the action of invading aliens kidnapping people, destroying buildings and generally being rather unpleasant.
Once the threat is established, the rest of the film revolves around the group (consisting of Eric Balfour – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Donald Faison – Scrubs and the delightful Scottie Thompson – Star Trek) trying to decide whether to stay put and sit out the invasion, or get the hell out of dodge. Unfortunately, as engrossing as some of the action is, this premise seems to stretch throughout the entire film. Apart from being littered with blatant clones of other film scenes (I actually started playing ‘name the movie’), Skyline runs out of its own ideas very early on.
The characters struggle to connect with the script throughout and even though Scottie Thomson puts in a good performance, Eric Balfour is uneven and inconsistent during many scenes. Fortunately, the film comes to the rescue by distracting the audience with panoramic shots of bombs, battles and the human struggle for freedom in the distance. The directors are careful to keep the perspective with the main characters and there is a continual, contagious fear that is absorbed by the audience through the screen during some of the ‘closer’ encounters.
It is a decent first effort on the part of everyone involved and the Strause brothers clearly have some good ideas in their locker. Scenes involving the aliens’ hypnotic lights are sinister and slightly captivating. It is as expected, great to look at and some of the action scenes work well. The film does not, however, deviate far from what is shown on the trailer, and some scenes, such as the ‘TV reports shown on the teaser trailers, are not even in the final cut. So what you see is what you get, or what you don’t get in some cases.
It is an entertaining, contemporary bit of fun with plenty of explosions and aliens to keep the audience interested. Unfortunately, when it comes to escaping the scary monsters, Cloverfield really shows us how it’s done. Drip feed the audience glimpses of the threat, keep it dark, crank up the tension and develop the characters as you go. Skyline does none of these.
Shapstik verdict: Even though the film sticks commendably to the task at hand, the actors lack the presence required to turn a simple plot line into an engrossing film. 5/10