Directed By: Robert Lieberman.
Running Time: 109 Minutes.
“Oh, shit… Look at that f---ing thing. It’s coming to get us...”
Okay, we made that line up. Let us just say, the screenwriting is nothing special. I watched the whole thing and nothing really left an ear print. It was serviceable though.
CoverUps.com Rating: 2 UFOs
(January 22, 2007) - Fire In The Sky is based on a true story that takes us back to November 5, 1975, in a mountainous area near Snowflake, Arizona. Here we find the young folksy-friendly, logger and dreamer, Travis Walton (Sweeny), who has designs on a local charming debutante. But, as you will learn, his marriage plans are derailed. Get ready for this: Travis disappeared on a late night return trip from logging during an encounter with a strange fiery-looking basketball thing, which looked like it was ready to give birth to a large glowing orange - in the night sky!
Travis, like a true jackass, was namely responsible for his ensuing abduction because he approached the hovering space alien thing – almost taunting the craft - and got his ass zapped! This was a UFO of course (if you haven’t already guessed) and it scared the bejesus out of his logger buddies, who fled the scene like bats out of hell. Then, at the bottom of the hill, all huddled in their pick-up truck, human nature presumably makes Mike Rogers (Patrick), the leader of the pack, and Walton’s would-be brother-in-law, go back up the mountain to get their dumb friend - the smarmy kid that just had to stick his finger in the flame. But, he is gone. Where Travis was at this point is any alien’s guess. But, hey, a great story is born!
Mike Rogers and the rest go back to town where the good old town folk, suspecting foul play, quickly turn on Mike Rogers and his crew. An investigator, Frank Watters (Garner), comes to harangue them until they confess what really happened. However, there is no motive as to why they would want to kill their buddy and claim he was abducted by a flying saucer! So, the cover-up then, is whether the abduction of Travis Walton was merely a hoax or part of the mysterious pantheon of real life alien abduction phenomena. When Travis shows up five days later, cold, naked and scared as all hell, we are inclined to believe it was a real alien abduction. Either that, or Travis had a drug problem nobody knew about and he got a hold of some mean stuff. Or, perhaps he decided running around naked in the mountains for five days would be fun. Hey, guys have done weirder things.
Okay, there may or may not be such a thing as alien abductions but there is the very real and scary corollary of renting a movie from one’s Netflix Queue only to have it magically appear on the gimmie section of your cable on-demand service – the work of aliens? Perhaps. And on that note, we awkwardly segue into a cinematic critique of Fire In The Sky.
From the standpoint of pure movie workmanship it is a very average, but it does go up a gear when you get inside the Alien spacecraft, which makes this film’s interest back loaded as this happens far too late in the cinematic affair. But, I did think the actual abduction was weird and freaky. It held my interest and does elevate the film somewhat, in the end. The problem is the rest of the movie that precedes this part. It really doesn't grip us or hold the high level interest generated from the outset, which is the alien kidnapping of their logger buddy, Travis Walton. The surly friend was mistakenly emphasized in my opinion. After all, they showed the UFO at the beginning. We know this dufus didn’t get mad and kill his friend. So, why bother with him so much acting like he may have killed him?
It is between the disappearance of Travis and his reappearance where the film primarily bogs down on Mike Rogers, despite being acted nicely by Robert Patrick. This less interesting dynamic simply dominates far too much of the movie. I will give Robert Patrick credit however. He is the most effective actor in this film and, for our sake, the alien’s choose the right guy in abducting D.B. Sweeney who played Travis Walton. Perhaps it was this role that prompted Patrick’s hiring for the X-Files? I wouldn’t be surprised. He has that “Aliens don’t F with me” kind of gravitas.
In any case, I don’t entirely fault the film for focusing on the town’s reaction. After all, if your friend was abducted by aliens, who would believe you? And what would prompt a group of loggers to concoct a story for the attention? We are sold on the loggers as solid young men by the local Sheriff early in the movie. But, maybe they had a history of pulling pranks and stuff? If so, then we don’t know about it. Still, do we really care? We want more aliens, less humans. The balance of the movie was tilted too far to the human side and probably was its greatest transgression but can you really blame it since it was based on a true story?
Other than what I found on the Internet, I have not read the official account of the Travis Walton Experience. The film interested me enough that I plan to do so sometime before I am abducted by aliens myself. That the movie has piqued my interest may be credit enough that it is a serviceable film but if not for the last segment, it would barely elevate above most made-for-TV programming.
Fire In The Sky would be tantamount to a long and very average X-files episode. On the criterion of cover-ups, it fairs much better than on pure cinematic qualities. However, I have my own theory on what the aliens really did to Walton when he was on board their UFO for five days: they made him watch Fire In The Sky for five days straight! It might explain his appearance when the found him naked and broken down at a gas station.