REVIEW: ‘Sky High’ Is Beautiful but Weak

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Sky High

Sky High is a Spanish Netflix original film. The heist movie is directed by Daniel Calparsoro and written by Jorge Guerricaechevarría. It stars Miguel Herrán and Carolina Yuste, with Luis Tosar, Richard Holmes, and Patricia Vico. The plot follows Ángelito (Herrán), or Ángel for short. He’s an aspiring criminal living in one of the poorest suburbs in Madrid. He spends his nighttimes stealing everything from cars to jewelry with his friends Poli, Motos, and Gitano. But when he meets Estrella  (Yuste), Poli’s girlfriend, he instantly falls in love with her. Getting involved with an old school friend and her wealthy father leads to bigger and more dangerous heists. Caught between the upper and lower classes and trying to reach the top, Ángel starts to make too many enemies.

The plot struggles, primarily due to its pace, making the whole movie feel disjointed at times. The movie is over two hours long and feels it, with act two dragging especially. But at times, things move too quickly from scene to scene, and the scenes lack continuity between them. This is in part due to the occurrence of large time jumps that are poorly explained. The editing of the scenes is frequently jarring due to both the timing of the scene change and the fact that it saps the momentum that the plot was building. As the movie progresses, some surprises and interesting ideas are explored, but many of them happen too late in the run time to be totally effective. 

Ángel and Estrella’s relationship jumps too quickly, lurching from first meetings to first sex without much on-screen interaction. The scenes being poorly connected alongside the extremely long-winded story makes it difficult for the audience to get a foothold and pay attention.

Ángel as a character impresses in some regards but detracts in others. Much of this comes from the performance by Herrán. He is a fantastic physical actor, emoting so well through facial expressions. Despite being slightly smaller than other characters, he has the ability to deliver a menacing stare against those he’s fighting against. 

There is an underdog quality to him in stature that makes him an interesting character at first but quickly starts to fade and get lost within the plot. We don’t know enough about him before he grows into a terrible person, so it isn’t a surprise when he does so. As an actual character, he isn’t interesting enough to captivate the audience. There isn’t much humour or true emotion in his delivery or the lines he is given, so he ends up being flat most of the time.

Estrella is one of the few characters within Sky High that radiates power. Loud, passionate, and intense, Yuste brings flair to a woefully underused character. For the vast majority of the script, she is relegated to a love interest and often disappears for long periods of time. When she is on-screen, she is brilliant, verbally berating anyone that even glances her way when she is in a rage. But the audience doesn’t get enough of this.

Whilst this is a heist movie through and through, it is also a romance between Ángel and Estrella. But the connection between them is so weak. It isn’t earned; there is no true build-up to the relationship. So when it is tested later in the plot, the audience doesn’t see a need for them to remain an item. There are brief moments of gold, but the dialogue and body language lack the small details needed for their relationship to really feel authentic.

Outside of the two main characters, the quest to find figures within this movie that are memorable gets difficult. Vico, who plays Ángel’s corrupt but brilliant lawyer Mercedes, is fantastic for the sole fact that she is one of the only people who comment on how poor of a criminal the protagonist actually is. But after that, the rest of the supporting cast is hard to remember.

The rest of Ángel’s gang all lack defining personalities. Poli, played by Holmes, has flashes of menace as the nemesis of the plot. If Ángel and Estrella are Romeo and Juliet, then Poli is Tybalt. But his strength falters, and he can disappear from attention like many of the other characters. 

The many heists shown in the film fluctuate in the severity of what Ángel and his team steal. Some unique locations result in fascinating set pieces, but there are also repetitive car thefts. The editing of the heists can be confusing on occasion. The build-up to each one is either brief or non-existent. It often transitions from a quiet scene to a sudden burst of action. However, for the most part, they are where the excitement is found.

What Sky High excels in is its visuals and direction. Calparsoro and cinematographer Josu Inchaustegui make this film very pretty to watch. There are very inventive and gorgeous, wide shots that show the beauty of Madrid. There are many instances of sleek cars driving through the city at night; the glow of their headlights creates haunting images. One of the most prominent themes in the film is the class divide in Spain and its capital. The wide shots show off hotels dripping in gold and glamour, which are fantastically juxtaposed against the city’s impoverished outskirts. 

Another aspect of this movie’s beauty comes from the colour. There are dozens of occasions where the use of colour is jaw-dropping. Unnatural shades appear in several parts of a shot simultaneously, often matching with a characters’ clothing. This adds so much flavour to the scenes, especially when there is little dialogue. One of the best sequences focuses on Estrella entering an incredibly extravagant hotel that Ángel is staying in, which is almost overbearing due to how bright it is. Estrella looks small within the vast shot, but the red of her outfit makes her the only thing that truly stands out. 

Sky High is a movie that struggles to execute its promising ideas. From the surface, the terrific direction and cinematography piques the audience’s interest and establishes the world Ángel and Estrella are trapped in, with the first few heists full of action. But as the time starts to jump and the plot starts to unfold, that interest withers. The cast doesn’t have the identity and power to keep the energy moving for the entirety of the very long run time. The growth of the characters isn’t presented well either. It is difficult to invest yourself in the crime drama and even harder to care about the romance. Perhaps with less hectic editing and more exploration of supporting characters, Sky High could have been a much better film.   

Sky High is available to watch on Netflix.

Sky High
  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10
5/10

TL;DR

Sky High is a movie that struggles to execute its promising ideas. From the surface, the terrific direction and cinematography piques the audience’s interest and establishes the world Ángel and Estrella are trapped in, with the first few heists full of action. But as the time starts to jump and the plot starts to unfold, that interest withers. The cast doesn’t have the identity and power to keep the energy moving for the entirety of the very long run time.