In the city of Los Angeles, after a late night party, a group of friends are awoken in the dead of the night by an eerie light beaming through the window. Like moths to a flame, the light source is drawing people outside before they suddenly vanish into the air. They soon discover an other-worldly force is swallowing the entire human population off the face of the earth. Now our band of survivors must fight for their lives as the world unravels around them. This enthralling sci-fi thriller is directed and produced by the Brothers Strause whose company Hydraulx created the visual effects for Avatar, Iron Man 2, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 300.
Three years on from their previous directorial effort, brothers Colin and Greg Strause bring us the sci/fi survival thriller ‘Skyline’, set in sunny Los Angeles and telling the story of a small group of survivors in an alien invasion. Overall the film appears to be influenced almost in equal parts by previous films ‘Independence Day’, ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘District 9’ and while the film serves as a reasonable entry into the genre, it doesn’t manage to reinvent or transcend the genre in any way.
The film spends minimal time introducing the characters and developing some back story before moving right into the main events, and with only an approximate 95 minute running time it needs to move things along quite quickly. The opening act however still manages to build some entertaining drama between the characters which for me almost proved to be as entertaining as the rest of the movie.
The cast gave a solid all round performance, without any real stand outs though ‘Scrubs’ fans may get an extra chuckle out of seeing Donald Faison in such a different type of production to his more familiar role. There were a few moments where some of the more dramatic dialogue wasn’t delivered with as much strength and conviction as it could have been, however not in such a way that it really distracts from the real entertainment value to be found here which is within the visuals.
The visuals used here are very enjoyable from the selection of color effects, the choice of landscape shots capturing the impact of the alien craft, to the up close characters moments, this aspect of the film was really well done. Currently the official production budget appears to be unclear however speculation places it in the vicinity of $10 million to $20 million, which at either end of the scale is very impressive.
The film is densely populated with visual effects shots pretty much from beginning to end and for such a low budget production the quality and realism is excellent and out performs more expensive productions from as recent as the last year or so. The close up shots featuring live action interacting with practical and computer generated effects holds up to scrutiny in the context of the film making it well worth seeing from that perspective alone.
As if the many images of alien craft wreaking destruction or alien creatures searching buildings and engaging resistance on the ground weren’t enough, this film still manages to top it off by fitting in effects heavy large scale air borne combat sequences into its modest budget.
In terms of the story to ‘Skyline’, it plays out in a fairly familiar fashion for the most part, to its credit the short running time keeps things moving from act to act and it explores a few interesting ideas in the genre. By the last few minutes of the final act it starts to feel like it has over played its hand somewhat and missed what would have been a stronger point to end the film on, instead electing to continue to pull back the curtain on things the audience has only been able to imagine for most of the film.
Without being able to equal previous efforts like ‘District 9’ and ‘Cloverfield’, ‘Skyline’ sits comfortably a few steps down from its predecessors, but still delivering some entertainment value and on an impressively modest budget. Visual effects fans owe it themselves to check this one out, as well as anyone who likes a survival story with a sci/fi twist.
I’m giving ‘Skyline’ 3 out of 5 stars, and it’s released in cinemas around Australia from Thursday 11th November.