Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Signal

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Turns out the signal was just that Max Headroom pirate broadcast from the 80s.

The Signal – 3 out of 5

The Signal is a movie that sold me when I saw the trailer and my girlfriend and I really wanted to go see it in the theaters.  However, it was one of those movie that, at the time we saw the trailer, only was in select theaters and, sadly, the theater that we live near (and love dearly) didn’t have it.  So, we said, “Awww schucks,” and kicked a small rock to illustrate our disappointment…and then we promptly forgot about the film.  Then it came out on DVD and Blu-Ray and we said, “Oh yeah, we wanted to see that movie.”
Look at the action this film has!

Put your eyes on the road, girl!  You don't want to get into
an accident before the mysterious shit in the story
starts to go down.
Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Haley (Olivia Cooke), and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are on the road to help Haley move.  Wrestling with their feelings of a friend moving away, they suddenly find themselves the target of a hacker calling himself NOMAD.  Ready to get the best of him, the trio track him down to an abandoned shack.  As things are bound to do when in abandoned shacks in films, something mysterious happens to them and they black out.  Nic wakes up in a mysterious facility and is instructed by its hazmat-wearing contact (Laurence Fishburne) that they have an extraterrestrial encounter.  Things get even stranger as Nic’s request for answers are met with silence and his attempts at getting out are thwarted at every turn.  When he finally manages to get himself and Haley out and meet with Jonah, even more questions are raised as nothing seems right…
He farted in his suit...but is at peace with that.

He ran through the glass...just like a dog that didn't know
the patio door was closed.
The Signal gets emotional, trippy, and a little confusing but it wins points for being intriguing and being another sci-fi film that is capable of telling an interesting story without having to go overboard on the budget.  However, the film tends to get too hooked on the emotional aspect of the story and it ultimately feels like the questions the film raised are ignored and their answers are the victims left behind.  I have no problem with a sci-fi tale trying to humanize its story or be a bit coy with its explanations but when it leaves most answers in the dust only to raise more questions feels weak.  I wasn’t expecting to get all the answers but some more would have probably helped.
One question, why didn't anyone at the facility give him some ChapStick.

Alright, Lin Shaye is in the film.  Quick, what's your favorite
role from her?  The answer is all of them.
While the acting in the film is very good, my biggest complaint comes from the fact the story is a little sloppy.  With the already mentioned affinity for the emotion side and the desire to make the film stranger than it needed to be (a little mystery is good but there is a line between being mysterious and just fucking with your audience with nonsense), it ended up making the film feel incomplete.  This is very obvious when the film comes to its dramatic reveal at the end of the film and you are left to realize that the film spent so much time with what felt like the first two Acts of the movie and developing the confusion the characters are going through that it feels like it is abandoning you when the climax hits and should be ushering you into the final Act.
The look of a man who just microwaved his new iPhone.  (I'm so topical...until
someone reads this several years from now.)

Spoiler...there's a white hallway in the film.
While the ending and the build up are cool, they just left me wanted and expecting more.  While lacking motives to much of the “Whys” in the film get the old noodle thinking and pondering, this element backfired because I started to dig too deep into the “Whys” and started to find myself coming up with more “Who the fuck cares” with the “Whys.”  Without revealing anything about the movie, one of the film’s big reveals at the end is left there for you to absorb and the big question is “why was this particular spoiler-y thing done to the character of Nic?”  A half-assed explanation is given about him being a “great achievement” but when this is just left in the wind and I stopped trying to figure out what purpose it ultimately served, I found that I just no longer gave a shit because it felt, ultimately, like a plot device-derived twist rather than something with some plot-logic to it.
"We got a problem...I can't see out of my right eye.  All I see is a brown blur through it.

Is he...is he rubbing his chin in thought while in the suit?
And that is what a lot of The Signal ends up feeling like—it feels more gratuitous than actually meaningful.  The film has some cool ideas with the alien/X-Files feel the movie is going for but, without giving many answers during its story, the end product just felt like it was throwing in cool things that are visually appealing but lacking completely in story satisfaction.  When you add its artsy, human side with its big reveal and overall classification in sci-fi to its trippy presentation and lack of explanation and answers, the film sorta feels like a unique short film stretched into a feature length film.  As a short, this would have been cool and probably satisfying but as a feature length film that leaves you the moment the film gives you its biggest conflict yet, it just feels like an empty gesture.
I won't give it away but there's something spooky in this shot.

The Signal is a great idea that felt like it wasn’t completely feathered out and tried way too hard to be as ambiguous as possible.  The performances are great, the visuals are excellent, and the mystery is fun until you realize the production has no intention of really addressing it in anything more than a vague way.  I really wanted to like this film more but, in the end, the movie just doesn’t deliver enough where it was worthy of giving it anymore than a single chance.

For such a brutal scene, it looks surprisingly beautiful.

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