Signs

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Patricia Kalember, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin

Director: M Night Shyamalan

This sci-fi thriller, directed by the excellent M Night Shyamalan focuses on the mysterious appearance of a five hundred-foot design of circles and lines which suddenly appear carved into a family’s crops and the journey they take into uncovering their meaning and who put them there.

As in all great 50’s sci-fi movies, the action concentrates on one family, in one small town. The only difference between this Shyamalan effort and that of a Jack Arnold movie is that crops replace a desert location. Apart from that, this really could be a script from 1955.

Mel Gibson, who plays the father is, as always, fine. The rest of the cast hold their roles well, especially in tight situations. The little girl is cute, not irritating and Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t overdo it as the jock. After a while, we realise that the ‘signs’ of the title are markers for an alien intelligence, who, as in all great sci-fi plots, are out to take over the world. There’s no point in going into too much detail, but, if you can’t make it to the cinema, raid your VHS collection and dig out the following films and follow these instructions:

Jack Arnold’s IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) – watch the first 50 mins or so of this one to set the scene as regards a remote local and characters.

Don Siegel’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) – watch the scene where Miles first encounters the seed pods in his friend’s shed and worries about mind control.

Byron Haskin’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) – watch the last 50 mins of this film – that should make up about the same running time as SIGNS and the plot will flow beautifully along the same lines!

This isn’t meant to be a dig at Shyamalan’s movie – I really loved it – but the reason I did was because the director himself knows that every classic sci-fi cliche in the book is being used, but he does it in such a way that it is really enjoyable. One thing – and please skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want a plot clue – why would an intelligent alien species (they built spaceships for heaven’s sake) decide to invade a world that is 70% or so water if water can kill them? That probably explains why this movie wasn’t set in England. Imagine that. They land, it starts to rain, the end.

All in all this is an enjoyable movie, with great scenes dotted all the way through (the director is obviously a fan of Spielberg’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND) that builds up to a fine but slightly disappointing climax. The music and the photography are excellent and you are constantly reminded of Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: A good effort and pleasing for those who, like me, love a good B movie.

4 out of 6 stars

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