VOD film review: Beyond Skyline
Benedict Seal | On 16, Dec 2017
Director: Liam O’Donnell
Cast: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Iko Uwais
Watch Beyond Skyline online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
As a sequel to 2010’s critically derided alien invasion film, it’s safe to say that Beyond Skyline hasn’t exactly been awaited with baited breath. However, the first film’s co-writer, Liam O’Donnell, returns to pen and direct a much more obvious crowd-pleaser.
Addressing many of the criticisms levelled at its predecessor, Beyond Skyline leaves the confines of the first film’s LA apartment to follow a new set of characters. Frank “brillo” Grillo plays Mark, a no-nonsense LAPD detective whose son is abducted in the first film’s invasion. Mark’s familial search leads him and subway train driver Audrey (Novakovic) over to Laos, where they join an underground resistance group led by Sua (Uwais).
Beyond Skyline quickly advances through the first film’s beats and transports Mark and co. across the Pacific. The race through Skyline’s timeline does compromise the pacing, as all the far-reaching third act action beats from the original are covered in the sequel’s first. But, in doing so, O’Donnell ups the action from sporadic alien encounters to a full-on resistance movement.
He also reunites Uwais with The Raid co-star and action choreographer Yayan Ruhian. It’s the first time the iconic pair have shared the frame since their cameos in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Uwais is better than he’s ever been, in a much lighter role than The Raid’s sombre Rama. Their action scenes may not reach the transcendent highs of Gareth Evans’ action masterpieces, but the frenetic hand-to-hand combat, including an Uwais-Grillo mano-a-mano, is well above most direct-to-VOD action films.
The South East Asia setting offers more than just a new combat style. There are also heavy Vietnam allusions, both to the conflict and the art it inspired, with the Lao resistance echoing the Viet Cong’s use of guerrilla warfare and slow-motion shots of fleeing civilians evoking Nick Ut’s iconic photograph, The Terror of War.
Colin and Greg Strause’s first instalment served as a surprise pregnancy and childbirth allegory. For all the changes, that is one strand O’Donnell seems desperate not to drop. Mark’s search for his son continues that thread, but there are also direct links to characters and narratives from the first film. They are quite well integrated, but they rely on an engagement with the first film’s characters whom most viewers likely won’t remember all that clearly.
The Brothers Strause’s visual effects company, Hydraulx, once again push the boundaries of what’s achievable on a $20m budget. Intricate alien sets and kaiju throwdowns aplenty (in gorgeous sunshine, no less) are undeniably eye-catching. With Cloverfield tackling the mysterious side of an alien invasion, there is a perfect gap in the market for Skyline’s brand of B-movie thrills. Let’s hope that a possible Skyline 3 doesn’t feel so tied to previous narratives and can continue to explore global stories.
Beyond Skyline is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.