"Beyond The Sky" Doesn't Go Far Enough
When I grew older, I’d heard about alien abduction, and I thought perhaps this was a phenomenon that answered some of those fateful questions. Were these abductors the vanguard of a higher species attempting to establish contact with mankind? If so, why did they shroud themselves in secrecy? What could they hope to accomplish by temporarily kidnapping individuals and subjecting them to scientific study? Were these kidnappings for our benefit or for theirs? What purpose were they serving in private, and what could it all mean for our planet?
Circumstantially, Beyond The Sky tinkers with some of the curiosities of my youth, but it stops short of passing any significant judgment on such events, leaving the audience with the responsibility of choosing what to believe and whether or not to accept such aliens know what’s best for us in the final estimation.
From the product packaging:
“Chris Norton has been hearing about alien abductions his entire life but, in his gut, he knows they are not real. Setting out to disprove the alien abduction phenomenon once and for all, he attends a UFO convention to meet alleged abductees and reveal the truth behind their experiences. It is only when he meets Emily, who claims to have been abducted every seven years on her birthday, that Chris realizes there may be more to these claims than meets the eye …”
Structurally, Beyond The Sky strives to tell its story a few different ways, and perhaps therein lies the film’s central problem: it’s bitten off entirely more than it can chew in a single 90-minute feature. Writer/director Fulvio Sestito attempts to balance some faux documentary-style footage within his fictional account of Chris and Emily’s experiences – even having faux-cameraman Brent a character within the flick – and it unfortunately ends up feeling a bit jumbled. There’s nothing wrong with some of the film-within-a-film segments, but the trickery should’ve been used with greater restraint as this viewer found it more distracting when it should’ve helped advance the story on a different level.
That aside, Sky does offer up a few worthwhile characters: Ryan Carnes plays Chris – a budding filmmaker seeking to discredit UFO contactees for entirely personal reasons – and he deftly balances his skepticism about aliens on Earth up until the point wherein his experience can no longer be denied. Jordan Hinson (as Emily) is his centerpiece: her repeat abductions serves as the real catalyst here, for if he can win her over with his logical refutation of the entire phenomenon, then perhaps he’ll have his victory even at the expense of the girl’s sanity. Begrudgingly, she welcomes his assistance as her 28th birthday approaches, meaning she’s destined for another encounter.
However, director Sestito’s story – crafted also with contributions from Rebecca Berrih, Warren Thomas, and Marc Porterfield – just works too hard to achieve what meager returns it delivers. Not content to be merely a film-within-a-film, Sestito layers on an abduction-within-an-abduction in order to ramp up the suspense in the last act, revealing the military/industrial complex’s participation in some ongoing affair yet providing absolutely zero reason behind it. (Was that lost on the cutting room floor? Or were local businessmen simply angry of what Chris’s efforts were doing to their cottage industry?)
The aforementioned X-Files had already staked up such territory in one of their best hours – “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” – and, at times, Sky feels like it’s little more than an attempt to one-up that 40-minute episode of television. If that’s the case, the film fails, as all it takes is a pair of hands locked together (young love?) to make the aliens look elsewhere in the galaxy for suitable test subjects. (Watch the film, and you’ll get my meaning.)
Additionally, the script seeks to establish several additional connections – Native Americans familiarity with the aliens, New Age participants who mystically connect with higher intelligences, the ‘missing time’ phenomenon, etc. – that don’t work as organically here to advance the plot as they should. Instead, they feel like asides wrapped up in the narrative more likely to get the feature to as close to 90-minutes as they can: a more seasoned script might’ve explored the what’s, how’s, and why’s of such connections, but perhaps that’s lost on the production team here.
Still, performances are solid. Carnes does good work, and Hinson appears credible when trying to account for her experiences with the unknown. Screen veterans Peter Stormare, Dee Wallace, and Don Stark are along for the ride in small roles, lending their gravitas to a script that certainly could’ve used a bit more of them. And the last reel is what audiences to this kind of motion picture are waiting for: on that front, Sestito’s film delivers the goods … I just wish it had all been wrapped in better packaging.
It isn’t a dud by any measure. It’s just wildly uneven … perhaps like so many accountings of those who come back from alien abduction.
Clearly, I think it’s safe to conclude that Beyond The Sky’s target audience is most likely those who find themselves interested in the ongoing controversies surrounding alien abduction; sadly – in that respect – the film doesn’t really offer anything new on the subject matter, nor does it really explain (or try to explain) why such things as these abductions happen in the first place. Thankfully, the flick avoids casting any judgment on the abductees, as I’ve seen many others features that poke hurtful fun at the phenomenon; Sky treats it mostly with legitimacy, giving elements of the production more of that documentary feel its lead characters deserve.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJ Entertainment provided me with a DVD of Beyond The Sky by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.