The Signal | Sinister, suspenseful and totally engrossing
This smart and edgy sci-fi will leave you guessing until the very last shot – but its worth the journey.
Bound for Caltech, three tech nerds – Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Haley (Olivia Cooke) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) – make a detour to track down a hacker called Nomad, who was responsible for almost getting them expelled. But while searching a shack in the dead of night, Haley is suddenly snatched from their car and the boys black out…
Waking up inside a research facility, Nic is informed by the mysterious Dr Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburne) that as he and his two friends have been placed in quarantine because they made contact with an extra-terrestrial. But, as Nic begins to make sense of his strange new surroundings, nothing adds up – clocks are broken, medical charts are left blank, and strange experiments are being carried out on a cow. What could it all mean and what has happened to Haley and Jonah?
What is the truth of the matter here?
The Signal starts off like your typical road-trip-to-hell thriller, then suddenly shifts gears after the all-too familiar Blair Witch-styled encounter into classic paranoia sci-fi territory by way of THX-1138, The Andromeda Strain and The Island.
Director William Eubank cites his influences as The Twilight Zone and Moon, and the films of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. And it’s certainly evident in The Signal‘s visual design and story execution, with the editing being handled by Brian Berden (who worked on Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks).
I’m not giving anything away by revealing that Nic and his friends have become human guinea pigs in a scientific experiment using alien technology. Nic, who needs the support of crutches because of an unnamed condition, gets a new pair of legs capable of moving faster than lightning; while Jonah (Beau Knapp) receives cumbersome hands with the ability to cause a small earthquake.
Adding to the suspense of this twisty sci-fi are the scientists in charge of the facility where our heroes are being held. Why are they so cold and seemingly mute, apart from Damon? Is it because of the nature of their job (alien containment) or something else altogether? Well, me thinks there’s a clue in Laurence Fishburne’s monotone HAL-styled delivery.
This is a gripping little sci-fi that shouldn’t pass under your radar. My only bugbear, however, are some of the plot’s incongruence’s – which only come to light after the big reveal at the end – and the misnomer that if Nic is so smart, how come it takes him the entire film to work out that Damon is an acronym for Nomad?
I also felt kind of sorry for poor Olivia Cooke as she doesn’t get to do that much here. She’s great in the opening scene, but her character remains comatose through the rest of the film, until the explosive climax, only for her to disappear all over again.
Former Home & Away heart-throb Brenton Thwaites, who’s currently filming the next Pirates of the Caribbean film, is certainly easy on the eye – and thanks to the 2.39:1 theatrical anamorphic format you get to stare straight into his big brown eyes, but he also brings great depth to his role as the partially-disabled tech nerd whose alien upgrade makes him a mighty force to be reckoned with.
The Signal gets a limited UK cinema release from Friday March 27, followed by its DVD release on 13 April from Entertainment One, which will include deleted scenes, outtake and a behind the scenes featurette.
Posted on March 27, 2015, in Might See, Might-See, Sci-Fi and tagged 1920s sci-fi, Beau Knapp, Brenton Thwaites, Home & Away, It Came From Beneath The Sea, Laurence Fishburne, Might See, Olivia Cooke, Pirates of the Caribbean, William Eubank. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.