Dark Skies – 2013
Written and Directed by Scott Stewart
Starring Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons, Brian Stepanek, L.J. Benet, Annie Thurman
Every aspect of Dark Skies leads to one conclusion. It is a shame, too, because the journey towards this conclusion is faithfully executed and is quite earnest in its work. The actors are quite committed to the craft, showing perplexity when surprised and showing despair as hope is drained from their existence. The editing of the film is crisp, except one point at the end, when for some reason the filmmakers emphasize the obvious, as if the dots had not been connected with one of those unmistakable horse leg pencils.
Keri Russell was the draw into this film, and she is worth every cent. As Lacy Barrett, she is one of the few actresses that can take almost any material and make it real. I do believe it was her death that catapulted the Mission Impossible series from a Tom Cruise plaything to bona fide collection of fantastic events affecting real people. Here she comes across as a wife and mother in a struggling household where she struggles to hold the line while her husband fights to regain a focus. And then things start to really go wrong.
Josh Hamilton (Daniel Barrett) first crossed my field of vision with his transfixed performance as a man who is absorbed by Mother India in the Forgotten Gem Outsourced. His abilities are tested in an entirely different way here, and he is up to the task. The fragile chemistry between he and Russell is organic and sometimes riddled with pain. There is a genuine affection that is severely tested. He does not get enough lead work and one hopes that this leads to more work for both him and Russell.
The kids in the film, as portrayed by Goyo and Rockett are expressive and tender. The path that the older child, Jesse (Goyo) approaches the world with guarded bravery. He has a dangerous friend Rat (Benet), who really isn’t anything more than a blunt object used to bash Jessie’s way into new experiences. These experiences are not real, of course, and when Jessie tries to combine the knowledge attained from Rat into a budding relationship with Shelly (Thurman), his illusions collide with reality.
Younger brother Sam (Rockett) has trouble sleeping and is counting on walkie-talkie sessions with his brother to get him through. He exists primarily for everyone to focus their protective impulses upon. He gets more lines than most kids do in this role, and he’s makes it worthwhile.
This is the first major film Stewart has made without Paul Bettany. It is his most concise and cohesive effort thus far. There is no scene in this one that matches the old woman in the diner from Legion, but this is the first film he has made that could be considered an real story with a beginning, middle and end. Even so, the predictability of the events undoes the power of the performances, and leaves you watching something just to verify that it happened just as you predicted.
(*** out of *****)