Movie Review: Skyline

Bombastic CGI heavy sci-fi

You can’t fault the brothers Strause for lacking audacity. Despite making Skyline on a mere $500,000 (the remaining $10-20 million was spent on computer effects), the directors have attempted to make an alien invasion movie that’s more Independence Day than Monsters.

If you didn’t already know, the Strause’s background lies in computer effects (they were behind the camera and infront of the digital editing suite for 2007’s Alien vs. Predator: Requiem) and flamboyant music promos (they shot 50 Cent’s ‘Get Up’ in 2008, they worked with Usher and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers before that).

They’ve made a career proving they know a thing or two about bombast. Typically, Skyline is full of it.

To make the most of their small budget the duo filmed the majority of Skyline’s action in Marina Del Rey, LA, in and around the high-rise condo where Greg Strause lives. To cut costs they employed David Zayas from Dexter rather than Will Smith, making up the cast with the supporting cast of shows like 24 and Scrubs. Yet the majority of the film is blue screen and CGI, and as the aforementioned Monsters deftly demonstrated, sometimes it helps to work within the parameters of your resources, rather than trying to bust through the walls. Skyline is a film that would have worked better if it showed a shade more grace. As it is, the scale of the films ambition only serves to signpost its failings.

Ridiculous ending aside – think Alien Resurrection meets Die Hard, only directed by a sleepwalking David Lynch – the best scene in Skyline comes early on, when two of the characters are trapped in their apartment, hiding from the probing tentacle of one of the aliens. It’s a homage/rip-off of the Parson scene from H.G Wells The War Of The Worlds, but it does much to convey the claustrophobia of being trapped in a skyrise while the world goes to shit outside your window. Scenes like this are all too rare in Skyline, a film where the relentless digital trickery all too often looks cheap. It’s a shame; the film is a more unnerving tale before the characters (literally) pull back the curtains.

Skyline often comes off as a film making big noises to disguise having little to say. If you’ve ever spent time with someone like that, you’ll know it can be fun for a while, exciting even, but you’ll always wonder what that person would be like if they shut up for a while and showed some restraint. Diverting and relentless in its pomp though it is, it’s that feeling which resonates throughout the running time of the Strause brothers’ film.

James McMahon