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FIRE IN THE SKY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, James Garner
Director: Robert Lieberman
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2004

"They took him."

Film ***

In order to fully accept the story that is told in Fire in the Sky, you will have to seriously challenge your beliefs on whether or not life does indeed exist beyond our planet. I like to think that such a thing exists; therefore I very much accept the alleged fact based details that the movie offers.

In 1975, an ordinary man experienced something that none of us could possibly imagine. Arizona resident Travis Walton had gone missing for several days. At least, that's what most of the townsfolk suspected. Despite an intense rescue operation, no sign of him was found. When he was eventually discovered, his story would devastate those who knew him best.

Fire in the Sky, adapted from Walton's own recollection titled "The Walton Experience", chronicles the course of the day Walton (D.B. Sweeney) mysteriously vanished. The story opens on the night in question as Walton's best friends/work associates fearing for their lives after witnessing something beyond description. The ring leader, and Walton's closest friend, Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick) insists they go to the police and tell them what they claim to have saw.

As they are interrogated by state policeman Frank Waters (James Garner), the men give their side of the story, which reveals that their friend may have been very much abducted by a UFO that appeared to have crashed somewhere in the Arizona mountains. Waters, of course, refuses to believe their story. It doesn't help their case when the rest of the town starts to suspect that they had something to do with Travis' disappearance.

Travis is soon discovered, and right from the moment of discovery everyone who knows him senses a pivotal change in him. He was the most normal guy one could ever hope to meet. Now he is deeply traumatized, and constantly being haunted by nightmares of his experience. Just a flash of light in his face is enough for him to recollect what happened to him.

The two most exciting sequences in the movie are indeed the revelation involving Travis' abduction. The first is an early scene where Travis and his friends are driving home from work in the evening, where at which point Travis sees what appears to be a red fire projecting from the forest. He gets out of the truck, apparently astonished with glee at what he is seeing, His friends beg him to get back into the truck, only to then witness a huge beam of light knock Travis to the ground. This is the incident that precedes the opening of the movie.

The second is easily the capper of the movie, where in which we experience, along with Travis, the gruesome details of the alien experiments done to him. How intense is this sequence? Let's put it this way, I'm surprised the film was able to garner a PG-13 on the basis of this scene alone. Without delivering any detail, I can tell you that it is bound to get a reaction from anyone who sees it. This is probably the most realistically accomplished sequence involving a frightening encounter with alien intelligence.

Even though the too-neat of an ending does leave something to be desired, Fire in the Sky is a most effective fact based drama. It had an impact on me when I first saw it back in 1993, and that impact is resonant when watching it eleven years later. And as for Travis Walton himself, I for one think he's very lucky to still be standing.

Video **1/2

Overall, not an awfully bad anamorphic offering from Paramount. The presentation does actually turn up a series of nicely done images, some in dark scenes and others in light scenes. The abduction sequence itself is grand looking moment. The only flaw is that there are sparse moments of noticeable grain which last longer than they should. Other than that slight disadvantage, this is an otherwise solid looking disc.

Audio ***1/2

The stellar 5.1 mix did a great job of reminding me just how intense this movie was. The suspense laden opening of the film is a good indicator of what's to come, audio-wise. As for the two big sequences of the movie, be prepared for a fully dynamic-level of sound. I never saw the movie in the theaters, but I'm very sure that it could never come close to the quality of this strong presentation.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

As far as true stories reflected on film go, Fire in the Sky remains one of the more effective ones I've come across. If you're into any type of UFO stories, and haven't had the opportunity to see this movie, you owe yourself a chance to check it out.

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