From the trailers bandied about before Skyline’s release you’d have be forgiven for assuming that this was a high budget disaster movie that rips off everything from Independence Day to War of the Worlds and Cloverfield. On watching it you’ll discover that only half of that statement is correct. While it liberally borrows themes, set pieces and snippets of dialogue from films in which large sums of money have been invested, this is one production that has been formulated to cost as little as possible. That makes it an underdog, and as a British person I recognise the importance of blindly supporting the little guy/gal in the face of impossible odds. Like Susan Boyle. Or the Lib Dems. But Skyline had better be careful, because the implicit appreciation of unrecognised talent is dependent upon that state enduring, as with popularity comes animosity amongst the populous of the UK. In this instance, I think I’m safe in having enjoyed this film, as the mainstream is unlikely to bat an eyelid.
Skyline keeps its filming budget to a minimum by sticking largely in one set of luxury apartments in LA, where according to Wikipedia one of the directors actually lives. Shot in a month for half a million dollars, the rest of the ten to twenty million budget was consumed by special effects. You can tell that the filmmakers have a background in special effects when one of the lead characters (played by Donald Faison off of that there hard hitting medical drama Scrubs) explicitly states that he is working in the Hollywood film industry as a special effects wizard before asking childhood friend Jarrod (Eric Balfour) to up-roots from New York and take a job at his firm, all the while suggesting that it is somehow easy to jump into computer animation.
Jarrod is unsure of what to do as girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) reveals that she is pregnant, but ultimately none of this matters. In the early morning following a party at the apartment aliens arrive with dazzling blue light which draws in any observing humans like a magnetic medusa and pulls them into the sky. Jarrod is briefly exposed and starts to show signs of infection while Hispanic building manager Oliver (David Zayas) turns up to try and help the remaining survivors…survive. This involves a lot of sitting around the apartment and looking out the window, briefly punctuated by scenes of attempted escape which are continually thwarted by alien drones and gorilla-like gargantuan cyborg-things. This serves to whittle down the cast and also allows for a lot of awe-filled gazing at the big special effects spectacles which are occurring in the smog-shrouded sky above LA.
The script is minimal and all generic, the designs of the aliens seem to have been ripped off from both The Matrix and the Gears of War videogame franchise and the budget conceit is thinly veiled with suspense that never really holds. The effects are actually rather good, which is appropriate given the expertise of the directors, and although you might feel a bit cheated if you pay full price at the cinema a quick rental once it makes it to DVD will make for a fine evening of dialogue-related giggles. But then you could get the same effect by buying some helium balloons and paying two tramps to read out the script through hilariously taught vocal chords. Like if Waiting for Godot was a space epic taken out of context. Which if you read it closely it definitely isn’t.