Dirs: The Brothers Strause. US. 2010. 92mins


As alien attack movies go, sci-fi thriller Skyline is a watchable romp mainly due to its top-notch special effects and sheer enthusiasm for the subject matter. The fact that it is oh-so familiar in content and style, lacks an original and distinctive script and has a cast best known for TV work may well hamper its ability at the box office once audiences have got past the early interest stage, intrigued by a smart teaser trailer and that fact it has been kept shrewdly under wraps up until release date.

It comes as no surprise that the effects sequences are of the highest quality.

And while the effects sequences are pretty impressive – though lapse into video game style at times – the film as a whole lacks a sense of heart in amidst all of the extraterrestrial mayhem. Elements of Cloverfield, District 9, Independence Day, War Of The Worlds and The Matrix can be glimpsed, and while there is a certain visceral enjoyment in the ordinary folk vs aliens storyline, it never really grips or offers anything particularly new.

The film opens impressively with the alien invasion, which appears at early glimpses to be subtle and non-lethal. Bolts of blue light come down from the skies, apparently mesmerising and sucking the life out of those who look into the light for too long.

Skyline the smartly shifts back a few hours to show Jarrod (Eric Balfour, from TV’s Haven) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson, who had a recurring role in NCIS) on a flight to Los Angeles. Jarrod is visiting his best friend Terry (Donald Faison) who has made it big and wants Jarrod to move from New York to work with him.

Terry success allows the film to dip into the whole party, pool, bikini, fast car routine, and before long the friends are all drunkenly crashing at Terry’s penthouse apartment. A short time later they are woken by the alien invasion.

They watch in horror as people around the city appear to be sucked up into massive hovering crafts, but when they try and make a break for freedom find that thousands of creatures (which look rather like tentacled beasties that featured in The Matrix) are sweeping the city and searching for humans.

After hiding out in the penthouse and observing both the aliens and a military attack (quite familiar to Independence Day), Jarrod and Elaine try and make a bid for freedom by heading to the roof to attract a helicopter, but aliens (this time in the form of lumbering monsters) are after them, and they find themselves sucked up into the alien craft. The film leaves room for an expected  - and actually quite intriguing – sequel.

Given that directors The Brothers Strause (who previously directed AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem) and their company Hydraulx have long specialised in visual effects (the company has worked on the likes of Avatar, 2012, Iron Man 2 and 300) it comes as no surprise that the effects sequences are of the highest quality.

What is often most interesting is the view the film takes in terms of effects – they are largely staged from distance, with the trapped people viewing the aliens through a telescope, or observing the aerial attack from their rooftop – which acts as a contrast to the usual in-your-face effects sequences.

Where the film lets itself down is the rather simplistic storyline and basic character development, which makes it hard to care about such a disparate bunch of individuals. Eric Balfour offers a certain lithe enthusiasm, though the best of the bunch is the excellent Scottie Thompson who offers a nicely nuanced performance as feisty girlfriend Elaine.

Production companies: Hydraulx, Relativity Media, Black Monday Film Services, Rat Entertainment,

US Distribution: Universal Pictures

Producers: Kristian James Andreson, Liam O’Donnell

Executive producers: Ryan Cavanaugh, Brett Ratner, Tucker Tooley, Brian Tyler, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones

Screenplay: Joshua Cordes, Liam O’Donnell

Cinematography: Michael Watson

Production designer: Drew Dalton

Editor: Nicholas Wayman Harris

Music: Matthew Margeson

Website: www.facebook.com/skyline

Main cast: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, David Zayas, Brittany Daniel