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Skyline

Year: 2010
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: The Brothers Strause
Producer: The Brothers Strause/Liam O'Donnell
Writer: Joshua Cordes/Liam O'Donnell
Cast: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson

The great thing about the CGI era is that you don’t need a huge studio backing to make an impact with a large-scale alien invasion flick. You can run around your own apartment block with no-name actors and create creatures as big as buildings and spaceships as big as cities on your computer after each day’s shooting.

And that’s exactly what the Brothers Strause have done. After their mostly-maligned efforts with the Alien vs Predator sequel, this feels like their passion project, the one they’ve been waiting to make since they decided to be filmmakers.

And despite some claggy scripting and characterisation, it shows. They keep the action in close with handheld cameras, increasing the tension. There are few wide shots (which only makes them more impactful when they arrive, like the first appearance of the alien fleet out of the clouds), so as the characters panic and try to see through cracks in blinds or down onto darkened streets, we know as little as they do, watching only their fear on their faces.

A moody opening sequence shows strange blue lights descending from the sky to land throughout the city of LA while a group of pretty twentysomething friends are all dozing in an apartment. Whoever sees the source of the lights are drawn to them, strange rashes covering them over.

We then go back in time to see how the two leads got there – a fairly unnecessary move that does little apart from let the structure start with a bang.

As the sun rises, huge alien craft descend from the clouds and start hoovering people up in their million with their deaths rays. As the terrified occupants hide inside, creatures that would have been original except for the squiddies from The Matrix float throughout the city looking for survivors, and enormous quadruped monsters stomp around on the streets below.

The choice becomes whether to flee in a nearby boat or stay holed up and wait to be found, and the direction wrings every bit of tension out of the situation it can while the inevitable happens and victims are picked off. The Dawn of the Dead -like scenario of a random group trying to deal with a disaster combines with some great visuals and the result is a fantastic popcorn thriller.

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