Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, et al.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
be honest, I believe Signs is the best suspense film to
come along in a very long time. Not only does the film draw you
in, but it creates an event so big, scary, and real that it kind
of redefines the 'suspense' genre. Running with about the same
pace as Unbreakable and Sixth Sense, Signs
manages to create enough suspense so that the final realization
leaves you breathless.
of what Signs is "really about" has been kept
under tight wraps and I congratulate the team behind the
marketing campaign for not giving away what "is
happening" in Bucks County, PA. Although the newest trailer
focuses on the crop circles phenomenon, what their meaning is,
and that something "is happening," Signs is
much bigger in scale. Its idea and story is much bigger. Its
impact is beyond description. No real words can describe the
feeling I had when the film closed with the same shot it opening
with. M. Night Shyamalan has crafted a film that redefines
suspense and the way we look at science fiction.
Hess (Mel Gibson), a retired pastor and widow, owns a farm in
Bucks County, PA. He wakes up one day to find mysterious crop
circles in his field. His brother, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix),
and children, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin), are
just as baffled about this discovery as Graham. At first, they
believe the circles to be the work of the neighbor's son or a
team of "nerds who don't have girlfriends and want to be
famous." The mysterious circles begin to trouble each of
their daily lives and routines. Bo believes the tap water is
contaminated. Their dogs begin to grow aggressive. But it isn't
until Graham sees a black shadow on the roof of his house that
he begins to question the reality of the situation.
film, which slowly builds its suspense on new discoveries and
identifications, eventually gets to the point where
"fiction" is able to blend in with
"reality." At no point in the film did I question
believability. In fact, Shyamalan creates such an enormous
awareness of what is "really going on" that it becomes
genuinely scary. I believe Shyamalan was able to pull off such
greatness with this film because he carefully planned each
character and each situation. Much of the suspense comes from
"not knowing everything." The audience is on the same
level of understanding and interpreting the situation. They know
as much as and as little as the Hess family. Their discoveries
are as shocking to us as to them.
Night Shyamalan is one cool guy. After seeing Signs, I
became to appreciate his talent even more. The guy knows
suspense. His mind thinks the unthinkable. He's a great
storyteller, Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were
fantastic, and proves it again with Signs.
acting was terrific. Most of the performances, even though there
are only a little over a dozen characters, feels real. Mel
Gibson was well-suited for this role. In fact, his character has
so much emotion. He is dead-on, and that is all you need to know
about him. Joaquin Phoenix, even though he replaced Mark Ruffalo
late in the game, gives off a great, subtle performance. Rory
Culkin and Abigail Breslin are perfect.
I chose not to reveal the real meaning of the crop circles in
this review. First off, it would be unfair. Second, it wouldn't
have the impact here as it does experiencing it in the film. The
trailer promises the film will explain the meaning, and it does.
The meaning might not be what you think, but boy is it a
and I have no doubt in my mind, will be remembered for breaking
new ground in the genre and challenging "disbelief."
It is clever and well thought-out. The suspense and reality the
film offers is incredible. An interesting thing to see is what
kind of professional praise the film will gain. Perhaps, Signs
will even be remembered by the Academy.
best way to end this review is to say: I loved Signs. I'm
thankful of Shyamalan for creating such an awesome film. The
film is a ride! It's a thrill! It's an event not to be missed!
Originally appeared in DITA's