It is the evening of November 5th, 1975. A group of loggers are in a pickup truck on a mountain road in a north-eastern Arizona forest, when they observe a strange and unusually bright light in the sky. As the curious young workmen stop near a clearing they are confronted by the staggering sight of what appears to be a UFO. Despite warnings from is co-workers but consumed by curiosity, Travis Walton leaves the safety of the truck to take a closer look. Suddenly, Walton is thrust to the ground by a mysterious force of energy. His companions flee in terror. Later, they describe the events surrounding the disappearance of Travis. They report an occurrence they would have considered impossible to believe if they hadn't experienced it themselves. A State Investigator is brought in and for the five days that Travis remains missing, the loggers are suspected of homicide until their friend suddenly reappears - naked, disorientated, starving and unable to account for his missing time. Slowly, however, Travis suffers horrific flashbacks of being aboard an alien craft and his story brings international attention to their small town of Snowflake, Arizona.
Phew! And it's all based on a true story. Now, whether you believe in little green men or not, there's no denying this is a competent film. Robert Liberman is the director (a name I'm not familiar with) but worth getting to know from the evidence on show here. The story is based upon the book 'The Walton Incident' by Travis Walton - his account of events in 1975. Robert (Terminator 2) Patrick is barely recognisable as the leader of the group of friends, looking like an extra from The Dukes of Hazzard (this is chunky check shirt and stetson country) and he puts in a sterling performance. To be fair, all the performances are good, even James Garner as the ageing, all-knowing State Investigator Frank Watters is terrific to watch in a clever piece of casting. The emphasis is on drama rather than science fiction, CIC video even promoted Fire In The Sky as a 'real life drama'. A wise move, for those expecting a show of special effects and aliens may be disappointed. In part, this reminded me of Jacob's Ladder and, like that film, it would be unfair to say too much about how the story unfolds. At this stage you have to take my word for it when I say that Fire In The Sky is intelligent, horrible and dramatic. The pace dips around the fifty minute mark but is quickly whipped again up with a terrific lie detector sequence that is gripping. The minimal effects work (by George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic) is first rate. Incidentally, the real Travis Walton has a cameo as a Snowflake citizen.