Review by James Lindorf
Liam O’Donnell helped write the original Skyline in 2010 and has returned, not only to write, but to sit in the director’s chair for the first time. Liam began his career as a visual effects artist, which is a skill that strongly influenced his directing style. The film was shot in a way to linger on the good visuals and pass quickly over the less successful ones. Beyond Skyline is being distributed by Vertical Entertainment and will be released in a limited number of theaters on December 15th.
The film stars Frank Grillo (The Grey, The Purge series and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as Mark Corley, an LAPD detective struggling with a rebellious son after the death of his wife. Grillo may not be an elite actor but this is a role that is perfect for him. Mark is tough and gritty, but has a heart of gold, which allows Grillo to disappear into the role. Mark was ready to settle in with his favorite bottle of whiskey when he was forced to bail his son, Trent, out of trouble, again. His frustration soon turns to terror and anger, as Mark is hellbent on freeing his son from the nightmare scenario aboard an alien warship. Contrasting with the dark and horrific spaceship sets are the scenes that were filmed in Indonesia. They are bright and colorful, featuring beautiful landscapes and Indonesian temples.
The movie also features a great supporting cast with a personal favorite in Jacob Vargas (Luke Cage and Traffic) as Mark’s extremely loyal partner, Garcia. Bojana Novakovic (Devil and Edge of Darkness) plays Audrey, a subway conductor that is thrust together with Mark and Trent as the try to survive the invasion. The most important costar is Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2) because he not only plays Sua, the leader of the golden triangle (a Laotion drug cartel), he is also the film’s action choreographer. Anyone who has seen either of the Raid films knows that means there is a fantastic mix of martial arts on display in Beyond Skyline, as humans fight each other as well as aliens. Mark and Sua must form an unlikely and uneasy partnership if they want to find a way to save Trent and the rest of the world.
The first Skyline, while financially successful, was far from a critic darling, with a Rotten Tomatoes score under 20%. I think that its sequel, however, will have a chance to triple that score. The film and its subject matter won’t be for everyone, but I can see this film having a strong cult following because of the quality of its effects and action. The film has a runtime of 105 minutes, which was good, but the story is complex and feels rushed at times. I think the complexity of the story that Liam went with needed an extra 10 or 15 minutes to further explore some topics, or he needed someone to take a pass at the script to tighten it or simplify it a little.
I enjoyed the movie and I can easily recommend if for sci-fi fans. It also made me excited for the career of Liam O’Donnell, going forward. He is only 35, and this was a fairly tremendous leap in quality between his first and second films as a writer, and a very strong outing as a first-time director.