THE SIGNAL (2014)
reviewed by Audy Elliott
"What do you think that sound is?"
- Haley (Olivia Cooke) to Nic (Brenton Thwaites)
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That sound the main character Haley hears is a loud indeterminate THUD! This movie for all of its allegorical ambitions fails to meet its self imposed lofty goal due to the pure acting shortcomings of its main star, newcomer Brenton Thwaites and the stoic, pedestrian direction of the film and the world it creates. 

KEYWORDS
Somber, Emotionally Limited, Stilted, Fractured, Esoteric, Predictable, Ambitious to a fault 

THE GOOD
The movie was able to convey a mood of unbalance reality.
Lawrence Fishburne’s terrific puzzling performance as the enigmatic Damon. 

THE BAD
Forced acting by the three main leads. 
Over usage of Telephoto lens especially during key scenes 
Straightforward and gimmicky camerawork style by the director 
Missed an opportunity to combine an interesting medium of a hybrid indie sci-fi thriller/superhero origin story

WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
Three college students on a roadtrip across the southwest of America take a detour to track down a computer genius who hacked into their computers at M.I.T. They find themselves drawn to a butt hurt scary area where something snatches the female lead played by Haley - Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) and drags her mid air like a date rapey honing beacon.  Then everything goes dark! When our main lead Nic - Brandon Thwaites (Malificent) wakes up with a horrific nosebleed, he finds himself locked in an observation room being monitored by the “Scientist” Damon - Lawrence Fishburne (Matrix, Boyz in the Hood)

WHAT THE MOVIE IS REALLY ABOUT
This movie, directed by up and coming indie director, William Eubank, aims for a low budget indie sci-fi thriller which play’s on an allegorical context of Plato’s work ‘Allegory in a cave.' The movie’s premise involves trapping the characters in a particular setting, in this case – a strange desert laboratory/facility where all does not seem right – forcing the characters to accept the world as their reality unless, you have one person (Nic) that decides to not accept the preconceptions of the world’s forced upon alleged truthfulness.

Eubank wanted to create an argument within this film where “Logic vs. Emotion” is the main theme. The Character Nic, whom we follow begrudgingly, is the conduit of the argument. In the scenes where Nic has to make decisions that could affect the outcome of the trappings of the plot - such as trying to break out of the medical facility overseen by Damon, the intent was to convey that the conflict of his decisions weight heavily between his inherent choice of usage between logic or emotion to get him out of dodge. And here in lies the problem with the film – This movie for all of its awareness seems to miss the fundamental point in the movie’s story arc, and ultimately Nic’s character arc, which is: The audience needs to be emotionally invested in the character to feel any sentimentality towards the movie. Not once was I interested or gripped by this predictable mess to see that thematic tension to where it won me over. Thwaites plays Nic as an honest and technically brilliant guy, but is overwhelmed by the scenes that need him to push out of his comfort zone and man up. When he does do it, it comes across whiny and petulant. Fishburne is the standout here in this film (not that it would take much). As with his impressive career, he puts in another credible fine performance as the antagonist Damon. Fishburne plays it with shades of ease and accommodating affability, but with a dangerous unflinching detachment. Furthermore, the director steals flashback scenes from the Christopher Nolan school of filmmaking with the backstory of Nic, his girlfriend Haley, and the third principal character, best friend – Jonah; Eubank during primary scenes will do a flashback to show Nic’s personal attachment to the past, impressionistically explaining Nic’s wants and needs, and reflections of a better or more idealized time; however, it doesn’t bridge the narrative cohesively. This is a shame cause the movie to its credit is ideologically thoughtful just not a well executed.

KEY SCENE
In this scene you get an idea of the two leads, as we by proxy do, with how we are to feel towards the lead character, but also towards Damon as well. Not only are both characters “feeling” each other out and sizing up the situation but we are also trying to feel out the validity of the circumstances that Nic finds himself in, and how he responds to power in an adversarial manner.

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CONCLUSION
This movie really didn’t work for me on any particular intended level that the director was pushing for. The film’s direction was nothing to write home about nor did the characters possess any particular magnetism harnessed through their angst ridden first world problems. Also I tend to roll my eyes, when the director or creative powers that be put a built in crutch to plant “adversity” onto the main character. Nic has to face the plot while being crippled and using crutches/and or wheel chair. This isn’t Rear Window where James Stewart’s character is asked to overcome his lack of mobility to find resolution, Rear Window forces Stewart to utilize it to his advantage, and this movie to a lesser extent did not choose to go that route by hampering Nic with his affliction. By asking Nic while in a wheel chair, to save his girlfriend sneak out the facility, and locate his Paul Pfiffer looking best friend, with his full metal alchemist death grip, we the audience come quickly to the conclusion  that he is not going to get very far. Even with newly found well built robotic legs this movie has a hard time finding its proverbial footing.




1.5 out of 4  

 


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