Film: Skyline

Director: Brothers Strause

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

Rating: Good

Agnibho Gangopadhyay

 Remember that song by Red Hot Chili Peppers? It’s the edge of the world/And all of western civilization/The sun may rise in the east/At least it settles in a final location/It’s understood that Hollywood/Sells Californication. Californication stands for an autocritique of everything that is America. The iconic music video for this song was directed by Brothers Strause duo, and complimenting the lyrics, it was replete with scenes of destruction, as if the present state of urban civilisation — ignorant and hedonistic— has just gone past stasis. Brothers Strause, 10 years thereon, has returned to the same premise of Los Angeles getting obliterated, in their film Skyline. However, this film shows promise to go beyond the regular apocalyptic stuff, perhaps because the directors may have retained the critical acumen they exhibited in the Californication video — the self-introspection that mocked American popular culture, lifestyle and superiority complex. The storyline is slim. A couple, the good-looking Eric Balfour (Jarrod) and the pretty Scottie Thompson (Elaine) comes to L.A for a friend, Terry’s (Donald Faison) big birthday bash, who is a Hollywood celebrity with a lavish life. Both Jarrod and Elaine are somewhat skeptical about Terry’s offer of staying in L.A and working for him. Though they need money, they are uneasy with the dissipated lifestyle of the big, bad city. And then the aliens come, building on the sweet guilt that hangover and massive parties engender in people. They lure people like moths with an extra-mundane light, and assimilate their brains to survive and get a hang of this planet. The film hereon is an ocular treat. The directors are the brains behind films like The Day After Tomorrow, 300, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and 2012. It’s no wonder that the special effects are immaculate and imaginative. The alien spacecraft, the aliens themselves, the scenes of annihilation would thrill one and all. But the film is different because it shifts between an extremely sultry place where the characters jostle, struggle and despair and the skyline of the city. The epic, multi-narrative, feel-good aspects of films like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day are done away in favour of claustrophobia, point of view scenes, and drawing room drama. This is a creative and interesting change, and actually magnifies the threat looming outside. However, these contrasting scenes could have done better with more pace and cerebral dialogues. In the end, the film seems to slide into complete darkness, with city after city going down to alien attacks. No America-led counter-attack leading to a new, brave world, no CIA basement full of wise scientists finding the way out. But resistance is conceptualised in an interesting way. Jarrod was someone who was exposed to that evil, all-devouring light a number of times, escaping, but finally succumbing. The alien that is born with his brain becomes a rebel and fights the empire. To return to the song we began with: “Destruction leads to a very rough road/But it also breeds creation.”