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Film Review: Let “Skyfire” Sink into the Sea

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | January 12th, 2021

Film poster: “Skyfire”

Skyfire (Simon West, 2019) 1 out of 4 stars.

From the unimaginative minds of people who have seen (and made) far too many bad Hollywood disaster films comes Skyfire. It’s nominally directed by Simon West (Gun Shy), though given the by-the-silly-numbers plot on display, one can only imagine (for West’s sake) that a whole flock of producers controlled the story and mise-en-scène. In their attempt to maximize thrills via non-stop mayhem, they have achieved the opposite: a laughable mess overflowing with boring characters and nonsensical dialogue. It’s nice to know that American lessons in how not to make a movie have been so well internalized by the Chinese film industry.

For this is, indeed, a vehicle to showcase rising (and some veteran) Chinese stars, with one British actor (Jason Isaacs, Look Away) thrown into the mix as a (sort of) villain. Unfortunately, none of the performers, from lead Hannah Quinlivan (S.M.A.R.T. Chase) to supporting players like Xueqi Wang (Warriors of Heaven and Earth), fare well opposite the copious special effects, none of which stand out. Much rains down from the sky in Skyfire, but none of it impresses.

Hannah Quinlivan in SKYFIRE ©Screen Media Films

In an opening prologue, we see how young Meng Li loses her mother, and almost her father (Wang), to an unexpected volcanic eruption on a Pacific island. Flash forward 20 years, and now the adult version of her (Quinlivan) is working on that very same island as part of a team hellbent on setting up a system to predict all future explosions. And wouldn’t you know it? Some megalomaniac (Isaacs) has decided to build a resort on the island, complete with monorail to take guests up to the molten crater, in an effort to earn big bucks. Think Jurassic Park meets Dante’s Peak (both better movies) and you’ll get the idea.

Much happens, with seemingly high stakes, yet despite the near-constant emoting from all involved, very little of it resonates, perhaps because the musical score so telegraphs how we are supposed to feel that there’s nothing left to come from us. Rocks spew, lava flows, ash envelops, people die and whatnot. Since it feels and looks like a poorly designed video game, none of it has an impact. Let it sink into the sea.

Jason Isaacs in SKYFIRE ©Screen Media Films
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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is a former cohost of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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