Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Signal

Year: 2014
Director: William Eubank
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Laurence Fishburne

Plot: Three friends on a road trip take a detour to find an elusive hacker, only to find something much more sinister.

Review: The best thing going for The Signal is its mysteriousness, and at the same time it may be its own undoing. This is clearly the case when the audience doesn't really know what's going on by the time they reach the halfway mark of this sci-fi picture.

The story focuses on three friends: Nic, Haley and Jonah, who are on a road trip to help Haley move to another college. Nic and Haley are having relationship issues due to the fact that the former is suffering from a debilitating condition in his legs, and the latter moving away isn't great either. During their trip, Nic and Jonah are trying to locate Nomad, a mysterious hacker who has been taunting them, and after tracking Nomad's location, they all go there to discover who he is. But something unexpected happens, and next thing we know, Nic is in an underground facility watched over by people in Hazmat suits, led by Dr Damon, who starts asking him strange questions.

Director William Eubank, who co-wrote the story with Carlyle Eubank and David Frigerio, does his utmost best to keep the audience in the dark on what's really going on. He manages to make us care enough about the three kids to want to see them escape the facility (which you know they eventually do) and figure out what's happening. The story drops clues every now and then to pique our interest and keep going until the final reveal at the end, which is a good one. It does come at a price to the audience, which I'll get to in a bit.

Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke and Beau Knapp do great work here as Nic, Haley and Jonah respectively. They genuinely feel like close friends and display the right emotions at all the right moments. Laurence Fishburne is perfect as Damon, being the kind of guy with a calming voice supposedly to disperse your fears, yet there's a sinister tone in there as well, making us realise there's something else going on.

Now for the downsides. Despite the great story at hand, there were too many questions left unanswered at the end, which I can't mention without giving too much away. Eubank also poorly chooses to use flashes and slow motion to depict his action sequences in the film's climax, when a straight up approach would have been better. 

The Signal is truly a fascinating film, weakened only by its ambiguity and abundance of distractions in its closing moments. (3.5/5)

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