PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson) is a student with aspirations to become a lawyer. He attends college (implied to be Yale) along with his girlfriend Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and his best friend Will (Hill Harper). Luke’s friendships hit the rocks when he is invited to join a secret society known as “The Skulls”. After Luke passes the first part of the initiation process, he has a falling out with Chloe when she realizes that he has become a Skull. As a member of the Skulls, Luke is partnered with Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker), and the two quickly strike up a friendship. Caleb’s father, Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson), is the current Chairman of the Skulls and his partner Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen), takes an interest in Luke. Eventually Will, who has been conducting research on the Skulls for some time, discovers their secret ritual room. Will gets caught in the room by Caleb and in the ensuing struggle he falls and is knocked unconscious. Caleb is ordered to leave the room by his father, who gets one of his cronies to break Will’s neck. The Skulls manage to move the body and make it look like Will committed suicide in his dorm room.
Luke is greatly troubled by the death of his best friend, especially because Will’s family is the only family he had (due to the death of his parents at a young age), and becomes suspicious that Will was in fact murdered. He initially thinks that Caleb is guilty of the murder, and Caleb thinks that he himself is guilty since he assumed that Will was dead when he left the room. Luke obtains tapes that prove who actually committed the murder and in trying to convince Caleb of the truth (that it was his father who was responsible for Will’s death), Luke realizes how scared Caleb is of his father. Before Luke can show the evidence to police, the tape is switched by a detective and Luke is confined to a mental hospital under the control of the Skulls.
With the help of Ames Levritt and Chloe, Luke manages to escape the hospital and survive an attempt on his life. Luke decides that his only option is to fight the Skulls by their own rules, and “bring war to them”. He challenges Caleb to a duel at the Skulls’ private island, by invoking rule 119. Litten tries to take his son’s place in the duel but is denied the opportunity due to another Skull rule (119b, line 15). After Luke and Caleb take their ten paces and turn around, Luke drops his gun and tries to convince Caleb of the truth and that he is not responsible for Will’s murder. Despite being pressured by Litten to kill Luke, Caleb cannot bring himself to pull the trigger. At this point, Litten loses control, grabs a pistol, and attempts to shoot Luke himself, but before he can fire, Caleb shoots his own father. The wound is not a mortal one, but Caleb, mortified at what he has done, tries to kill himself but is stopped by Luke.
The film ends with Luke’s realization that Senator Levritt waited to help him until he had no other choice but to duel and eliminate his rival (Caleb’s father). Luke becomes disgusted with the order and refuses to participate further, despite threats from Levritt that he will be tracked down someday. As Luke walks away Levritt says, “Well done, son”. It has been speculated that this, along with other incidents in the movie (such as him comparing their backgrounds, Luke’s unknown father situation, and Levritt taking an immediate liking to Luke), that Levritt may be Luke’s father. The final shot of the movie shows Luke reuniting with Chloe.
Fraternities, sororities, honor societies, government…aren’t these all just various incarnations of secret societies? Have you ever wondered what goes behind the scenes and what it takes to join/be selected by one of these organizations? If you have, then you might want to avoid The Skulls until you actually become a member, since this film tackles the horrors behind the corrupt power they seem to hold.
So, what did I like?
Conspiracy theory. While some critics have said this plot is absurd nonsense, I actually liked it. Perhaps those that didn’t like it are actually members of the society in which this is based on and felt that this film came to close to exposing them. The fact that they not only give us a good look into the perks of this society, but also go into how it all but rules a person’s life (through the deception and deceit of various members), which I felt was very effective.
Working man. I have to give the writer’s credit for giving us a lead character at a college who isn’t there riding on his parents’ coattails. True, he also made for the perfect rival for his “soulmate” who was one of these rich kids. Not only is the lead the good guy, he’s also an athlete (crew), apparently an honor student, and works at least 3 jobs. Add to this the facts that he was once a bit of a street thug and has never known his father, and he makes for quite the interesting character, even if he is played by Joshua Jackson.
Underground. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a society which is composed of very powerful, successful men has quite the impressive sanctuary. I was taken aback by the sheer beauty and majesty of the place. Such a shame this society of corrupt individuals are able to have such lush accommodations.
What didn’t I like?
Got wood. I don’t want to say this is bad acting, because it isn’t, but there seems to be a lack of any kind of life in most of these performances. The only one who seems to giving it any kind of gumption is William Petersen, and that’s only because of that horrific southern accent he’s sporting. Why do actors do this? They get paid obscene amounts of money to show up for a few hours read some lines, then they go back to their pampering. The least they could do is make an attempt to do a good job!
Solo death. I wasn’t expecting this to be a blood fest, but somehow I thought there would have been more than just 1 person die. His death wasn’t even necessary, when you think about it.
College life. For a film that is set on a college campus, there sure is a lack of college life. I’m not saying every other scene needed to be drunken debauchery or anything like that, but there is something to be said for a little more than the first few scenes give us, and then all of a sudden we get glimpses outside the class buildings. It was sort of like the middle Harry Potter films.
The Skulls is decent enough, but nothing to write home about. For my tastes, it is something to watch when there is absolutely nothing else worth watching available. For others, this could be a must-see. Whatever your personal flavor is, I do recommend at least giving it a shot.
3 out of 5 stars