Director Simon West who is best known for “Con Air”, “The General’s Daughter”, “Tomb Raider” (Angelina Jolie) and “The Expendables 2”. Lately his efforts have been less than stellar, aside from the Jason Statham vehicle “Wild Card”. Realizing his career isn’t working out so well here in the states, he has made the move to directing his first film for the Asian market. West has gone to China to bring some western flair to eastern audiences. Director Renny Harlin of “Cliffhanger” and “Die Hard 2”, has made a similar relocation to China a few years ago.
Simon West’s debut for China, called “Skyfire” is a throwback to a genre popularised in the 1970s in classics such as “The Poseidon Adventure”, “Earthquake” and “The Towering Inferno”. West who isn’t one to bring attention to his films in labeling them as a “Simon West Film”, dabbles in his first visual effects heavy project. West and his writers Wei Bu and Sidney King, makes sure to tick off every box in the ‘disaster movie’ playbook. West’s attempt at a disaster flick is successful and hopes to dazzle audiences with it’s grand spectacle and massive amounts of property damage.
Having the contribution of the Asian film market is a smart choice, since they know how to make great disaster films (check out “The Tower” and “The Bravest”). The film takes “Jurassic Park” and blends it with Pierce Brosnan’s “Dante’s Peak” to give us a ninety minute rollercoaster ride. Sure it’s silly as hell, but there is fun to be had and it’s exactly the type of big screen escapist entertainment that you want.
Twenty years after a devastating eruption on the beautiful island of Tianhuo, businessman Jack Harris (Jason Isaacs) is about to open a sprawling new holiday resort on the slopes of the volcano that dominates the island’s skyline (I don’t know how that didn’t seem like a bad business idea). He’s short of funds and hopes that a presentation to a bunch of potential investors will secure not only the future of the rest of the resort but also ease his own financial difficulties. But the volcano is grumbling and Xiaomeng (Hannah Quinlivan) whose mother perished in the earlier eruption, now part of the scientific team monitoring the volcano, finds her warnings brushed aside by Harris whose been assured that the volcano isn’t expected to spring to life again for at least 150 years (He obviously didn’t see “Dante’s Peak”).
The story to “Skyfire” is silly, especially when it comes to basic logic in offering the idea that Jack would willingly build a shining, sprawling resort on an island that’s seen enormous volcanic activity within the last decade. There’s some explanation in Jack offering to his guests a tour of the volcano and it’s surrounding areas to give them a one of a kind getaway.
West knows how and has experience in shooting action and he gives us plenty of spectacle in a short amount of time. For the most part, the CGI effects are quite impressive (although there are a few slightly dodgy blue screen shots). West orchestrates action set piece after set piece, with the best of them being a thrilling high speed monorail rescue.
Sure it defies logic, but it’s hugely thrilling. Or the white knuckle set piece where a jeep races to outrun a steaming, raging wall of molten lava. West also isn’t afraid to show bodies being slammed around nor is he afraid to kill off his characters. “Skyfire” is an energetic, well staged visual effects action adventure that is more than worth, ninety minutes of your time.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)