Directed By: Robert Lieberman
Runtime: 109 minutes
"Fire in the Sky" is a science fiction thriller based on a true story, of which I have no research knowledge at this time. This review will stick to the facts... of the film and only the film.
First, I would like to pose a question to the audience. What would you do if your friend were captured by aliens? And when I write "aliens" I mean aliens, as in the big-headed big-eyed weird looking creatures you've come to know since childhood. Would you run? Would you go to the police? Would you become an estranged town recluse? This is the premise and pretty much the general theme throughout the first half of "Fire in the Sky."
Located in White Mountains, Arizona, six men are clearing trees in the forest for lumber distribution for a high-profile client. Two of the men are best friends Mike Rogers and Travis Walton, played by Robert Patrick and D.B. Sweeney. As usual, there's always one troublemaker in the group, Allan Dallis, played by Craig Sheffer. The other men play supporting roles with little to no significant dialogue relevant to this review.
Turning back to the story, while traveling home one night on the job, the men see a mysterious glowing red light not far from the dirt road that they are driving on. Once they get close enough, the ever-curious Travis decides to get out of the truck and snag a front row view of the unidentified flying object hovering above the ground. I kept asking myself why Travis would get out of the truck? Perhaps he is fearless, but this bordered on lunacy if you ask me, especially when all his friends are yelling and pleading with him to get back into the truck. How would you feel if a massive ominious sphere-like object were hovering over you? Am I the only one that would think about getting squashed once gravity takes that thing over? But perhaps Travis is just caught in the trance where he stands there like a deer in headlights, unable to move. His friends on the other hand, they're scared to death, but Travis doesn't seem bothered. With a quick flash of white light, Travis is thrust from his current postion and tossed around like a rag doll. When he hits the ground he's not moving and his friends assume the worst before driving off like crazy hillbillies, complete with the rusty old pickup truck.
The men tell the police what happened, which results in heavy skepticism and consequently a town that thinks they're living amongst murderers. But soon they'll be proven wrong when Travis calls Mike one night via a payphone - don't worry, he calls Collect, which I wonder how he was even able to manage this considering the state that Mike finds him shortly after. Travis is messed up and he's having flashbacks of his experience that night in the woods. The first few days of his homecoming are terrifying for him as he struggles to sort through the fuzzy recollections from the alien abduction. We come to learn what actually happened on that spacecraft, and it's not at all pretty. Aliens don't play nice, at least not in this film. Travis was poked, prodded, cut, and disected in a chilling scene complete with alien close-ups and skin-crawling operating procedures. Shortly after the big reveal, the viewer is catapulted into Travis' future, which appears normal by all accounts. He is now married with one child, and one on the way.
The storyline of "Fire in the Sky" was intriguing, but the outcome was rather disappointing. Too much time was spent on the initial struggle of the men trying to convince the townspeople of their innocence. When you already know that they're innocent, it's hard to watch an hour of them continuously pleading their case to others. We get it, we want to know what happened to Travis - that's the interesting part.
Once Travis arrives on the scene again, the film runs through the motions as if the director was told that the budget had reached its limit. Travis jumps from being a man with seemingly irreparable psychological damage to a man that works hard to support a family, just like any other man. We're left with too many questions. For instance, how did Travis get off the spacecraft? There was heavy implication during his time on the craft that human subjects were not a newly discovered hobby. What did the aliens gain from their investigation? Or are we to assume that these aliens were unintelligable torture seekers who randomly took people and then let them go? With such a strong beginning, it's unfortunate that this film fell so flat in the end.