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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  Flatline
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Wednesday, November 24,2010

Flatline

By Dave Taylor

 

Skyline is a mediocre film with fundamental flaws, a cast of B-list actors playing to stereotypes and a startlingly unsatisfying and bizarre ending. Still, after classic sci-fi films like War of the Worlds posit aliens that can be defeated by the common cold or Independence Day suggests that a computer virus can bring down an überadvanced alien vessel, I appreciated the attempt to create an essentially indestructible and terrifying alien life form.

 

The film opens with a scene of blue energy bolts shooting into Los Angeles and emitting a hypnotic ray that causes people to walk blindly into the light, just to be sucked up into the sky and thence into the bowels of a strange, alien vessel. Flash back 15 hours to when Brooklyn couple Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) land in L.A. to visit celebrity special effects wizard Terry (Donald Faison) and his girlfriend Candice (Brittany Daniel), and you have the basic setup. Oh, and Elaine’s pregnant.

There’s an inherent challenge in a film that shows indestructible opponents, however: no happy ending. In fact, the ending, of the “love conquers all” variety, is a confusing downer. Isn’t there some sort of redemption in the film? Isn’t there some sort of weakness that would allow humanity to fight on and regain control of our planet? Skyline is inspired by the stalker-horror genre, but directors Greg and Colin Strause forgot that the reason that genre works is because in the end a protagonist gets away by killing the bad guys.

The acting ranged from mediocre to downright awful, with particular emphasis on David Zayas, who does such a terrible job of his poorly written role of Hispanic tough-guy building concierge Oliver that one can only hope he has a day job that doesn’t involve acting at all.

There are also lots of gaffes and dumb character decisions. For example, the aliens arrive at 4:30 a.m. and wake everyone up, but a few minutes later Jarrod and Terry go to the roof, and it’s daytime. Later, experienced Angelenos Terry and Candice take the elevator to the basement even after the building’s been shaking as if there was an earthquake.

This is a film with lots of potential.

The directors should have cast better actors and remembered that movies where the characters face extraordinary challenges but redeem themselves — and save the human race — are far more satisfying. I liked when one of the characters compares the bright hypnotic light and people subsequently rising into the sky to the Biblical “Rapture.” That’s the kind of path I wish the film would have taken, but still, it’s nowhere near as bad as you may have been led to believe.

If you like the genre, it might be worth seeing on a big screen. If not, turn up the subwoofer when you rent this one, and it will probably be worth your time.

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