From the Chicago Reader (March 19, 1993). — J.R.
FIRE IN THE SKY
** (Worth seeing)
Directed by Robert Lieberman
Written by Tracy Torme
With D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, and James Garner.
“Based on the true story,” crows Paramount in the ads, and the words “Based on a true story” appear on-screen right after the opening credits. Under the circumstances — Fire in the Sky being the story of one Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney), who was allegedly knocked to the ground by a ray from a UFO in an Arizona forest on November 5, 1975, then whisked away by the same UFO only to be spat out five days later minus his clothes and sanity — these are clearly fighting words.
I came to this movie fully prepared to execrate it, but on reflection I’m more inclined to congratulate Paramount on its ability to get people like me riled up with its Barnum-like come-on — a good way of getting all of us to pay attention. In fact, considering that the encounter with extraterrestrials is couched in subjective rather than objective terms, “based on the true story” doesn’t seem such an outrageous tag. Furthermore, some of the implications of the line are partially undercut, or at least displaced, by a quotation that appears on-screen before the credits: “‘Chance makes a plaything of a man’s life’ — Seneca, First century A.D.”
Personally, I think that all movies are fantasies to begin with — documentaries and so-called true stories most of all — so the issue of being a “true story” seems moot.… Read more »