I saw the very similar film "The Phoenix Tapes 97" weeks earlier from here, and was blown away at how oddly compelling it was, while using an actual 1990s video camera to make it look like actual footage from 1997 rather than relying on unconvincing video effects to make it look like old footage, and how that acted as a perfect cover to hide any CGI or unconvincing costumes.
I didn't know this film, The Phoenix Incident, was going to follow the same route. It's almost ironic (not ironic) that after I had praised "Phoenix Tapes 97" for using an actual 90s camera and not relying on unconvincing video effects, this film "The Phoenix Incident" relies on unconvincing video effects.
The core of the film is a found footage story of the supposed four missing hikers during the Phoenix Lights incident, just like in "Phoenix Tapes 97" although in this film they use the actual names of the supposedly missing hikers. The video effects to make the footage look like it's from 1997 is thoroughly unconvincing and during some of the later scenes of the movie, seemingly start to not work properly, as the footage looks oddly smooth and crisp and clear, like they removed their 1997 filter for a few minutes at a time.
This found footage story is long, drawn out, and boring until it gets to the spooky alien stuff. Crowding around it to try to keep the story going is a very long framing device of a "documentary" chronicling the story of the "coverup" of the Phoenix Lights incident, involving the military, a crazy religious man as a red herring, and a supposed ongoing war against aliens that has been fought throughout the middle east and Africa prior to the Phoenix Lights incident.
It's all rather tedious, with some brief moments of genius, such as the revelation that the "lights" themselves weren't a UFO sighting, but actually flares dropped by the military... to distract from a genuine dogfight between F-16s and 2 triangular alien craft, which we actually get to see unfold from both the F-16 pilots point of view and from the hikers watching from the ground.
The film finally picks up at this point, but foregoing its horror aspect and becoming an odd action thriller tone, as the four hikers go on a high speed ATV chase from the aliens, complete with action movie-style twists, turns, and explosions, followed by a shootout at the crazy religious guy's ranch. This odd tonal shift, while trying to stick to its found footage style, seems to make the film come apart as it loses focus of its original plot. The video effects to make it look like 90s video are almost completely gone by this point, with only some barely-there film grain as a token reminder of what it was originally supposed to be. There's even dramatic Hollywood-style music going on during these sequences, and it's never clear who is even holding the camera at times or why they're still filming.
This movie doesn't seem to be able to fully commit to one style or another. There's an insistence on being a found footage film, while using the military coverup framing device to be like a mockumentary film, while containing multiple intricate and sometimes CG-heavy action scenes more befitting a gritty action thriller. Rather than failing at all three, like most films, the action thriller parts of this film are actually cool and beautifully executed, especially the dogfight with alien craft.
This film should have committed itself to the military angle and sharply reduced or possibly even left out the entirety of the found footage angle. "The Phoenix Tapes 97" does this exact same story with the found footage aspect done with an actual 1990s video camera for a far more authentic look while by the nature of its much narrower scope is much more taut and concise than "The Phoenix Incident" is.
Review by Andariel Halo from the Internet Movie Database.