"I just know I left the keys here somewhere."
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Mel Gibson .... Father Graham Hess
Joaquin Phoenix .... Merrill Hess
Cherry Jones .... Officer Caroline Paski
Rory Culkin .... Morgan Hess
Abigail Breslin .... Bo Hess
Patricia Kalember .... Colleen Hess
M. Night Shyamalan .... Ray Reddy, D.V.M.
Ted Sutton .... SFC Cunningham
Merritt Wever .... Tracey Abernathy
Lanny Flaherty .... Mr. Nathan
Marion McCorry .... Mrs. Nathan
“There's no one watching out for us Merrill. We are all on our own.”
To sum up: Graffiti's such a bad thing. It's usually a slapdash of
symbols, defaces public property, and in the case of Mel Gibson, it messes up
a perfectly good cornfield.
M. Night Shyamalan, the creative force behind the
hugely successful movie "The Sixth Sense" (which I loved) ventures forth
into the spooky zone once again with his latest "Signs".
The central issue of this film is about faith in
God. Now, faith in God is a difficult thing. It's belief in
a higher power; something that can't necessarily be seen or measured. It's
asking you to walk in the path of righteousness, set by God. That's easy when
things are going well, very hard when they aren't. It's faith during the bad
times that is the central focus of this film.
It stars Mel Gibson as a former minister who has
lost his faith in God due to the recent death of his wife. Guess he didn't
read enough of the book of Job. For the uninformed, Job is a book in the
Bible, specifically, the Old Testament. For the really uninformed, the Bible
is a book that deals with God and religion and if you own one, it's probably
that black covered book in the corner with all the dust on it.
Mel Gibson is one of my favorite actors. He can
tackle almost any type of film from the silly comedy to Shakespeare and be
charming and likeable throughout, even when he plays a "bad guy" as
in the film "Payback". As an actor, you can see that he is drawn to
characters that lose a loved one. With titles such as "The Road
Warrior", "Lethal Weapon", "Braveheart",
"Ransom", "The Patriot", and now this film, he's explored
several variations of this theme.
Well, one day
he wakes up and discovered that someone or "something" has made a
big geometric dent in his cornfield. Soon these crop-circles are appearing all
over the world in vast numbers. 18 circles appear in India in just 72 Hours.
Lights appear in the sky in 274 cities within 1 mile of the crop-circles. Is
it all just a practical joke or are aliens making
themselves known to the world?
It's a good premise. If only the
execution of the mystery was performed to a satisfactory level. It is a
certainty that Shyamalan, the director, is capable of effectively giving the
butterflies. He uses the jump cuts to shadowy figures, the barest hint of arms or legs, and the sudden shriek or bang on the surround sound to great
affect. He is also aware that less is more. One of the successes of
"Jaws" and "Alien", for example, is that the shark and
alien weren't revealed all at once. You got a glimpse here and another glimpse
there as the films progressed and it drew you in and kept the mystery going
until the end of those films. Shyamalan knows this and doesn't play all of his cards at once in revealing the nature of the
threat (yes, there is a threat). That is until one crucial
moment when, frustratingly, he backtracks from a progressive mode of
The problem of this film lies with Shyamalan the writer.
As I've stated, the central theme of the film deals with faith. It would have
been interesting to see how the past events in Hess' life, losing his wife and
his son's asthma, would play into the threat that appears and how it shapes
his dealing with it and, ultimately, his central belief in God.
It's the threat itself that Shyamalan has come up
with that is the problem. Is it spooky? Yes. But it's not very threatening. In
fact, it's almost laughable when brought under the tiniest bit of scrutiny.
It's not executed in a very interesting fashion, people don't react to it in
logical ways, and most of the threat is dealt with off-screen with news
reports and hearsay. In fact the ultimate resolution of the threat is so poor
that it makes the ending of "Independence Day" seem sublime by
comparison. As a result, it undermines any interest in the theme of the movie.
I was so distracted by the shortcomings of the "threat" that I lost
interest in the characters.
All signs point to underwhelming.
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