© 2010 Ray Wong
A love-child of War of the Worlds and Cloverfield: that would be the exact pitch for Skyline, an alien invasion story told from the point of view of a few friends trapped in a high-rise apartment.
Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Scottie Thompson (Elaine) are a couple invited to LA by their successful friend Terry (Donald Faison) for a fun week of vacation. Little do they know, Terry wants Jarrod to move there so they can go into business together. Scottie is upset about it, especially she just discovers she's pregnant.
During the night, they wake up to a strange blue light. When Jarrod stares at the light, he's hypnotized and drawn to it, and odd veins start to overtake his body. Fortunately, his friends save him. Later, the blue lights return; Jarrod and Terry go up to the roof to investigate, and they realize they're the subjects of an alien invasion, the humans are drawn to the light and then taken.
The group of friends hide in Terry's condo as long as they can, until the alien "scouts" try to find them. They try to escape to the open water, where the alien ships seem to avoid. Without any weapons, however, they can't go very far without being chased by alien creatures and machines. How do they survive?
Eric Balfour (The Spirit) is a capable actor buoyed by his edgy good looks, but he seems to be stuck with playing supporting roles. It's nice to see him in a lead role for once, albeit in a small-budge sci-fi horror. Balfour does his best with the role which, like all the other characters, is rather one-dimensional. Scottie Thompson (Star Trek) is in good form as Elaine. She gives the character a bit more emotional depth simply because we're supposed to care about her because she's pregnant. Sometimes, however, her character is irritating in her whininess.
Donald Faison (Scrubs) plays a variation of his Doctor Turk, and doesn't really have much to do except to either act cocky or scared. He needs to broaden his range. Brittany Daniel (Loveless in Los Angeles) also has nothing to do than act either bratty or scared as Faison's superficial girlfriend. Crystal Reed (CSI: NY) and Neil Hopkins (LOST) have even less to do -- in fact, their roles are firmly in the "expendables" column and we don't know anything about them to even care. The standout is David Zayas (The Expendables) as the gung-ho building manager. Another one-dimensional character, but at least Zayas gives it some life and attitude, effectively channeling Bruce Willis.
The screenwriters are Joshua Cordes and Liam O'Donnell, who are both, alarmingly, special effect specialists. It shows, because their dialogue is bare-bone and cliched, and the characterization is flimsy and superficial. The characters are thinly drawn and serves only as pawns. The real stars of the film are the special effects and alien monsters and machines. In some ways, the entire movie is shaped and structured as a sci-fi porn. Still, there are some intense moments and the writers did create a dire situation and the feeling of helplessness as the characters are trapped in the building. However, some of the tension is forced and contrived. I mean, can't the characters find a safe place to hide and hold out as long as they can? The story particularly falls apart at the end, when a silly and depressing ending almost ruins the entire story, which is shaky to begin with.
Directors Greg and Colin Strause (Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem) also started their character in special effects. To their credit, they do have an an eye for cinematic battles, sci-fi tension and setups and, of course, special effects. That's what they do best and they don't disappoint in that department. They make the best use of their limited budget ($10 million - which is paltry for a sci-fi action) and locations (mostly shot at Greg Strause's condo complex). Granted, the designs and execution resemble previous movies, so there's a certain tired "same old same old" feeling.
The major problem with Skyline is the writing and story. It's trite and cliched and unoriginal. Coupled with the disappointing ending, it hardly soars through the sky.
Stars: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, David Zayas, Neil Hopkins
Directors: Greg and Colin Strause
Writers: Joshua Cordes, Liam O'Donnell
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief sexual content
Running Time: 92 minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.5 out of 10