Signs is now the third offering from M. Night Shyamalan, the director who first gained world-wide recognition with The Sixth Sense (even though no-one can remember his name!). This time he’s turned his attention to crop circle and more importantly, who created them.
There are some spoilers in this review so if you want to be complete fresh when venturing into your local cinema, look away now (or skip to the Spoiler End paragraph)
Mel Gibson is Father Graham Hess, or rather ex-Father, as due to a personal tragedy he’s lost his faith. He lives on a farm in Pennsylvania, with his two young children, Bo (Abigail Breslin) and Morgan (Rory Culkin – there must be a secret lab genetically creating Culkins somewhere, as they keep on coming). Also with him on the farm is his younger brother, Merrill (Joachim Phoenix).
One day, without any forewarning, crop circles start appearing in the cornfields surrounding their farm. Initially Hess and Merrill suspect that some local boys are playing a hoax and call the local police. During the next few days, the family dogs become agitated and seem to be barking at nothing. The children start behaving strangely too, with Bo leaving glasses of water everywhere for no apparent reason.
More crop circles appear and not just on Hess’s farm. Television reports from around the globe show that they are appearing all over the world. The kids start wearing hats made from aluminium foil and begin hearing things on a child monitor. Merrill begins to do nothing but watch the reports on TV and sees something that aligns the family’s fear.
Meanwhile Hess travels to a neighbour’s farm, owned by Ray Reddy, to discover him leaving, but not before he warns Hess not to open his pantry…there’s something trapped inside.
Hess realises that the crop circles are actually linked into another more daunting issue; we are not alone in the universe.
First off, the keys issue with Signs is that although the film builds up very well and keeps one on the edge of their seat, the pay off is very weak. This has to be one of the weakest endings of a film, make so much worse by the excellent beginning and middle section. Shayamalan does what he does best, maintains suspense. By not revealing much, just little titbits, throughout the film, he keeps the level of suspense high. There are a few coincidences too many.
The performances are excellent, as Shayamalan does tend to bring out good performances from his actors. Abigail Breslin as Bo is superb and has some of the most understated, yet great, lines in the film such as waking Hess up in the middle of the night to say “There’s a monster at my window, can I have a glass of water?”. Mel Gibson is also good as is the rest of the cast with one horrendous exception, M. Night Shyamalan. His cameo as a drug dealer in The Sixth Sense was okay as he was on-screen very briefly, but to cast himself in a key role was a bad idea. He is not a character actor and the scene plays as an egotistical directors cameo for that is what it is. Hitchcock did cameos in his own films, but had the sense to just float around the background. Quentin Tarantino is another director, who cannot act, but likes to be in his own films.
As mentioned before, without giving away too much more, the film plays as a two-hour build-up with little pay-off. M. Night Shyamalan’s previous films will probably help Signs at the box office as his reputation as a suspense director is excellent. It’s a slow film and as a result the expectations are high by the time we reach the final reel, but a quick fob off ending leaves one strangely unsatisfied. It could have been a brilliant film, but to use a football metaphor, the ball hits the post in the 90th minute and the fans go home disappointed.
Score 6/10 (at least 2 points knocked off for the ending alone)
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