Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: Creepy "Signs" Dances with Fate and Faith

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 127 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Signs (2002)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some frightening moments
WRITER/DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan
PRODUCERS: Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, and M. Night Shyamalan
EDITOR: Barbara Tulliver
COMPOSER: James Newton Howard

DRAMA/SCI-FI/THRILLER with elements of horror

Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, M. Night Shyamalan, and Patricia Kalember

Farmer and pastor Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) lost his faith when his wife Colleen (Patricia Kalember) was killed in an auto accident, but when he discovers intricate patterns of circles carved into his corn fields (called “crop circles”), he embarks on an path that will alter his life. The mysterious markings cause a media storm and worldwide panic; trapped in his farmhouse with his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) and his son (Rory Culkin) and daughter (Abigail Breslin), Graham must discover if the crop circles are the signs of an impending invasion or are they part of a larger pattern of fate and predestination.

Signs was hit-making director M. Night Shyamalan’s third big-time studio film, and it was a huge theatrical hit. It’s a very entertaining film, although it is also a bit too serious and moody. In fact, Signs is so somber that it’s almost a chamber music version of solemnity. Still, like Shyamalan’s other best-known films (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), Signs is a superbly creepy suspense thriller, a brilliant stroke of quiet, edge-of-your-seat thrills.

The performances and the mood of the film go a long way in dictating how an individual viewer will feel about Signs; those two elements decide the “fate” of the film, as it is. Gibson and Phoenix’s performance are too low-key, so much so that it seems as if they’re stuck in the mud. The children, however, are very good in the film, and young Ms. Breslin manages to be super cute and precious without being annoying; she delivers each of her lines and gives each one maximum impact on both the film and audience reaction. Signs is also an excellent rumination on fate and faith and on how often people mistake the “signs” and the important incidents in life as coincidences. If the film wasn’t so stiff, stuck in the mud, and so deathly deliberate and formal, I’d call it brilliant.

7 of 10


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