Studio: High Octane Pictures
Director: Alex Tavakoli
Writer: Alex Tavakoli
Producer: Alex Tavakoli
Stars: Scarlett Byrne, Gavin Stenhouse, Rick Cosnett, Tyler Fayose, Carla Pimentel, Morten Suurballe
Five friends and a mysterious stowaway are forced to keep their private plane in the air when a disaster ravages the ground.
If The CW ever partnered with The Asylum to produce a made-for-TV disaster flick, it would probably look a lot like “Skybound.” Just take a peek at the preflight rundown:
Photogenic faces who might make better catalog models than film actors? Check. Poppy pianos and Lilith Fair vocals underscoring wannabe romantic interludes? Check. Green screen CGI that makes a tornado filled with sharks seem positively cutting edge? Check. How about a story sandwiching a silly love triangle into a sillier doomsday survival scenario? “Skybound” certainly has that too.
Matt has the money and the means to take Lisa on the first date to end all first dates. Accompanied by his pal Odin, who knows nothing of Marvel movies since he thinks he is named for an African god, and Odin’s girlfriend Roxy, Matt plans to whisk Lisa away from New York on his family’s private plane for a weekend getaway to Los Angeles culminating in a Vin Diesel movie premiere (I’m not kidding).
Unexpected guest #1 arrives in the form of Kyle, Matt’s brother who also happens to be Lisa’s former flame. Awkwardness abounds due to unresolved issues between Kyle and Lisa, although the movie only uses this side story for a few brief bits of lukewarm conflict. Kyle’s more immediate importance is to serve as Matt’s copilot when the control tower threatens to keep the plane grounded unless two people sit in the cockpit. Good thing Kyle showed up to handoff the parked plane for whatever reason.
Not long into the trip, an atmospheric anomaly disrupts everything electronic, necessitating an emergency landing in Chicago. Trouble is, there’s nowhere to land. An unknown event down below has scores of airplanes creating a traffic jam above the Windy City. When two planes collide in a midair explosion, everyone realizes the sky is as unsafe as the surface.
Complicating this life or death problem is unexpected guest #2. A squirrelly stowaway aboard the small aircraft claims to have been caught scavenging for food. However, Odin and the others suspect he knows more than he lets on, and may even be involved in causing the unknown catastrophe. Now no one can be certain if the greater danger lies beneath, in front, or within the airplane alongside them.
“Skybound’s” cast, at least three of whom struggle to suppress indeterminate accents, appear to be acting as if they’re auditioning for “Days of Our Lives.” A vacuum of passion sucks suspense out of every tension-filled interpersonal exchange, replaced with inflated melodrama in moments where the script uncomfortably overwrites dialogue.
The look in actor Rick Cosnett’s eyes suggests he can virtually see career opportunities crumbling as he recites an embarrassing monologue to rouse his costars for the climax. Music swells, the camera pushes in, and Cosnett exclaims, “we can fight, fight our way back into the light! We can climb out of this tomb, even if we’re scared, desperate, and the only way to do it sounds insane!” Something sounds insane alright. Namely the words coming out of everyone’s mouths.
“Skybound” remains confined to the airplane cabin for most of its 80 minutes. It’s a smart move when working with a small cast and a low budget, though audience engagement takes a hit from stagnant scenery of the same six people speaking in front of beige upholstery. Plausibility, as much as a premise involving the ground turning into lava can have anyway, takes a bigger hit from the interjection of a ridiculous red herring and inane supporting details that don’t come close to adding up (the newspapers, church bells on TV, how no one mentions the striking similarity between Scarlett Byrne and Kristin Kreuk?).
Earlier glibness to take a green screen jab aside, straight-up CGI scenes are actually on par with the film’s Syfy counterparts, even excellent for their kind in instances where animated imagery occupies the entirety of the frame. A few glimpses of good stuff pop up in isolated pockets, such as a wildly weird shot of flaming bison galloping across fiery Monument Valley plains. If “Skybound” only embraced this brand of visual absurdity more, it would be a far more entertaining flight of escapist fantasy.
And that is the disappointing problem with “Skybound.” It isn’t outrageous enough to boomerang back from ‘bad’ territory to be ironically enjoyable in the way that Asylum/Syfy movies often are. The kernel for a dopily fun apocalypse flick exists. It just never pops. “Skybound” is instead more middling than anything, taking itself seriously without having the gravitas in its plot, performances, or delivery to make any of it stick with something more explosive than a plop of preposterousness.
Review Score: 40