Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dark Skies, dir/scr. Scott Stewart, st. Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J. K. Simmons

Not the ill-fated yet culty mid-90s NBC TV series, although dealing with similar ET themes, Scott Stewart's Dark Skies announces its pretensions on publicity material that states the film is "from the producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious", which induces fears of its own. Yet remarkably, this is an effective and cogent sci-fi thriller, short on revolutionary ideas, but laden with atmosphere and menace. I'd be tempted to suggest too that the alien threat that rages against Russell and Hamilton's married couple Lacy and Daniel, faced with mounting financial pressure and the consequential marital strains, is an appropriate metaphor for personal economic uncertainty, the impotence of being unable to protect your loved ones, your most valuable possessions. Additionally, the film isn't afraid to look the phenomenon straight in the eye. When the parents go and see UFO specialist and be-catted recluse Edwin Pollard (Simmons), there are direct answers, but they're not very comforting. Anyone who's been watching the Cold War-set The Americans on FX knows of Keri Russell's ability to play the conflicted mother with subtle brilliance and persuasion, and similarly, Josh Hamilton makes a suitably accidental hero, a beta-male thrown into primal paternal mode. In many ways Dark Skies isn't anything you haven't already seen before and one may well question why such a tale of close encounters needs retelling. But the advance of history re-contextualises classic myths. It allows us to re-live these kinds of cautionary tales with renewed fear and hope when applied to our age. That's the essence of an enduring, timeless story, and it's why we keep going back to the screen for more.