Review: Signs

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

I have never had a harder time writing a review for a movie (evident by the short length of this review), than with Signs. Over the last few days, I have found myself frustrated, and at a loss for words. It was then that I realized that the intention of Signs is to do just that. Signs cannot be easily classified into one particular genre, as is the same with his previous films Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense. But one thing unlike his previous films, Signs feels extremely...average.

One thing is certain though, M. Night Shymalan has solidified himself as a talented director/writer who can creep us out with provocative ideas, rather than generic gore. Shymalanís films could always be counted on for their distinctive style and unique plot twists. I suppose it is unfair to judge Signs based upon its predecessors. But on another level, it is necessary. Signs falls way short of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable in terms of almost everything. If Shymalanís name wasnít listed in the credits, I never would have guessed it was his film.

Graham Hess (Mel Gibson, replacing Bruce Willis as Shymalanís leading man) is a farmer in Bucks County, PA. He is recently widowed and lives with his two children and his brother Merrill (Phoenix). Since his wifeís tragic death, he has begun to question his faith. Things are status quo, until Grahamís children happen upon a intricate crop circle in his fields. Soon, crop circles are appearing in great number all over the world. Then the worst happens, it turns out that these crop circles are code for the aliens on where to land. While the trailers clearly say that the premise of the movie is aliens, interestingly though, the actual story is about a man who has lost his faith in God, and is looking for...signs (no pun intended) that someone is up there looking after us.

The acting in Signs is top notch. It was through the acting, not the script, that I found myself laughing, biting my finger nails, and at times...near tears. This is why the film basically succeeds, it involves the audience on several meaningful levels. This is by far, the largest factor in why I am recommending Signs.

Shymalanís script overall effective. You never quite know about the aliens intentions, which provides a touch of mystery. However, for a good portion of the movie, Signs is stagnent. Or...BORING. Had the sections of Signs that were not boring been less than top-notch, I would not be recommending Signs. But they are top notch.

Signs has me very conflicted. I left the theatre feeling both very disappointed, and yet pleased. While I personally didnít find Signs to my taste, I do concur that Signs is a compelling piece of cinema. If you willing to hunker down some really boring pieces of film, you will be rewarded with some truly great scenes.

© 2002 Jake Sproul

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