"Don’t Follow the Signal"
What You Need To Know:
THE SIGNAL starts off quite normal and entertaining. However, what begins as an extra-terrestrial suspense movie turns into a strange sci-fi movie that feels claustrophobic. Though it starts off as potentially uplifting, the story’s defeatist ending is neither redemptive, nor is it a morality tale. Rather, it’s a tragic hybrid of ambiguous paganism with humanist traits. Ultimately, extreme caution is advised for THE SIGNAL, especially due to its mixed worldview, defeatist ending and slightly excessive foul language.
(Pa, HH, Pa, B, C, Ab, LLL, VV, N, M) Light mixed pagan worldview with strong humanist traits idolizing human endurance and containing a defeatist conclusion, some ambiguous pagan elements, plus moral, redemptive elements of self-sacrifice, but a creepy Christian lady makes several religious references and has a cross symbol and Jesus on a key chain; 23 obscenities (mostly “s” words”) and three profanities (including one “GD”); moderate action violence includes people getting shot (mostly off screen), explosions and some brief frightening images of the extra-terrestrials; no sexual content, with some light kissing; upper male nudity, teenager in underwear without pants; no alcohol; no smoking or drug use; and, main characters are expert hackers.
THE SIGNAL is an independent science fiction adventure movie about three college student friends, Nic, Haley and Jonah, who are traveling cross country to drop Haley off at her new university. Nic and Haley are longtime boyfriend and girlfriend, but with Nic being diagnosed with a deadly disease that requires him to walk with crutches, and Haley going to college far away, the relationship seems to be on the rocks. Nic and Jonah are hackers, and they’re on the verge of finding an individual who hacked into MIT and exposed their security weaknesses. When they track his location, the group decides to take a detour to confront the hacker in person.
When they arrive at a shack in the middle of nowhere, Nic and Jonah go inside to investigate. Desolate and abandoned, the two guys don’t find anything. Moments later, Haley starts screaming from the car. Nic and Jonah rush outside, see Haley flung into the air, and then they black out.
Nic wakes up in a white room dazed and confused. A man, Dr. Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburne), sits across from him in a hazmat suit and interrogates Nic about what he had seen. Nic, concerned for his friends, asks to see Haley, but they have no intentions of letting him see her. As the interrogations continue, Nic grows more uneasy and plans to escape the underground holding cells he and his friends are occupying. Once he hatches his plan, he succeeds at getting himself and Haley out of the compound, but once outside, the desolate wilderness they’re in makes them wonder if they’re captive in Area 51 at all. The plot thickens, and strange things occur.
THE SIGNAL starts off quite normal and entertaining, but what begins as an extra-terrestrial suspense movie turns into a strange sci-fi movie that feels psychologically claustrophobic. With a painfully slow middle, the movie shifts tone a number of times and inserts a major twist at the end that makes the majority of the story illogical and redundant. Nonetheless, the acting is adequate and the cinematography is stunning, even if many of the slow motion shots seem to have no rhyme or reason.
As with the story’s quality, though things start off as potentially uplifting, the defeatist ending is neither redemptive, nor is it a morality tale. Rather, it’s a tragic hybrid of ambiguous paganism with humanist traits idolizing, at least in part, human endurance. That said, there are moral, redemptive moments of heroic self-sacrifice and of the friends fighting for each other, but without reward in the end. Ultimately, extreme caution is advised due to the movie’s mixed worldview, foul language and action violence.