Peter Facinelli and Nick Lyon co-direct On Fire. Lyon co-wrote the film with Ron Peer, while he and Facinelli served as producers. Given that Facinelli’s also an actor, it should come as no surprise that he stars in the survival disaster epic. Clearly, this is a passion project for the two men, but does that translate to the screen, or was some critical distance necessary?
Dave (Facinelli) can barely keep up with his bills, as his father, George (Lance Henriksen), is quite ill. Yo help out, Dave’s wife, Sarah (Fiona Dourif), has gotten a job despite being eight months pregnant. Their teenage son, Clay (Asher Angel), is doing well in track in high school. So well, in fact, he might be able to get a scholarship for his higher education.
One day, after practice and work, the family reunites at home only to discover the fire in a nearby town is spreading to their corner of the world. Dave rushes to the hardware store for some needed supplies to fireproof their home. Unfortunately, the fire moves quicker than expected, forcing Sarah, Clay, and George to evacuate before Dave returns. All the while, emergency services phone operator Kayla (Ashlei Foushee) is fielding call after call about where spot fires have started, causing the planned evacuation route to be useless. Can Dave reunite with his family in the face of such an unpredictable element? Will Kayla figure out a new course for the townspeople to follow with minimal casualties?
“…the fire moves quicker than expected, forcing Sarah, Clay, and George to evacuate before Dave returns.”
For an independent production, the fire in On Fire looks quite good. While it appeared to be computer effects and rubbery during the opening credits, a lot of the time after that, it looks and moves very realistically. This is crucial in selling the danger of the disaster, and the effects artists, be they practical or CGI, prove up to that challenge. Of course, director of photography Philip Roy’s cinematography captures the beautiful forest and deadly red flower with astounding beauty. Long takes of smoke-filled woodlands tinged with an orange haze fill more claustrophobic than the cramped house the family lives in.
Facinelli and Dourif play off each other well. A serious talk before the fire about the demeaning manner in which George talks to Sarah feels authentic. Henriksen hasn’t lost a bit of his energy or gravitas, still giving 110% to every role, and he’s no different here. A quip about a full pack of cigarettes lands perfectly. Angel is good as the track star student, having a lovely little moment on the phone at the end. Foushee delivers an emotionally resonant performance as the overwhelmed operator.
While the ending is a bit too clean and pat, On Fire is still a resounding success. The cast is uniformly strong, and the cinematography lovingly captures the beauty and danger of fire. Lyon and Facinelli should be proud of what they accomplished.
"…a resounding success."