Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fire in the Sky

Year: 1993
Director: Robert Lieberman
Screenplay: Tracy Torme, based on the book The Walton Experience by Travis Walton
Starring: D. B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, James Garner, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, Henry Thomas
Running Time: 109 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction, mystery, drama

Summary: In 1975, a group of loggers are working in the White Mountains area of Arizona, near the small town of Snowflake. As they make their way home the men notice a strange large, glowing object, floating beside the road. One of the group, Travis Walton (Sweeney) leaves the truck to investigate, and is struck and knocked out by a beam of light. The other drive off in a panic, believing Walton to be dead. When the group's leader, and Walton's best friend, Mike Rogers (Patrick) returns to the site to find him, he discovers that Walton has vanished.
Naturally, no-one believes their story and the general opinion is that the group murdered Walton, and suspicious Lieutenant Frank Watters (Garner), in particular, is keen to see the men behind bars, especially Allan Dallis (Sheffer) a drifter with a violent criminal record who was working with the group and was known to dislike Walton.
As the pressure on the group mounts from both the police and the community the story becomes a media sensation. A sensation which only intensifies when a deeply traumatised Walton turns up after five days, naked and with apparently no memory of what happened to him while he was missing.

Opinions: This film is based on the true story of Travis Walton who was allegedly abducted by a UFO in 1975. The Walton case is one of the most famous in the annals of ufology, mainly due to the fact that the abduction itself had several witnesses and that Walton was missing for several days.
The film is interesting in the fact that the UFO and alien scenes are mostly downplayed with much of the running time focusing on the impact of the events on Walton's friends and family and the police and media investigations. The most notable aspect of the film are the nightmarish sequences aboard the alien spacecraft, which differ wildly from Walton's account (Tracy Torme, the film's screenwriter, claimed that the studio executives found Walton's account boring and insisted on the changes). The spacecraft sequences are genuinely imaginative and disturbing and have made the film something of a cult movie among science-fiction fans.
The film is well cast with familiar, solid character actors. The film would probably have been more successful if it had been released a couple of years later to tie in with the increased interest in alien phenomenon caused by the success of the TV series The X-Files (1993-2002).
Whether you believe Travis Walton's account or not, or even believe in alien abduction or not, the blend of science-fiction and police procedural should help the film appeal to more than science-fiction fans.

"They took him."
- Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick) explains the situation in Fire in the Sky

Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney) in Fire in the Sky

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