Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Laurence Fishburne, Lin Shaye
Director: William Eubank
“On a road trip, Nic and two friends are drawn to an isolated area by a computer genius. When everything suddenly goes dark, Nic regains consciousness—only to find himself in a waking nightmare.” (IMDb)
»Currently streaming on Netflix«
What to Expect
Why You Should Watch It
This is far from The Matrix, but any movie involving Laurence Fishburne making you question reality should grab your attention. The cinematography is great, and you’re given just enough clues to know that something is off, but you can’t figure out just what until the very end.
Rainy Day Flick (C)
This movie has three definitive parts, and I had different feelings for each one; I liked the beginning, was frustrated throughout the middle, and loved the twist ending. The beginning was beautifully composed, made you care for the characters, and set a tone apart from the rest of the film—it makes you let your guard down and wonder if what you’re getting into is even worth it. The ending had my jaw on the floor.
The middle…was flimsy in plot and some points felt like Eubank was just searching for any excuse to employ some cool action scenes. Jonah (Knapp) sacrificing himself for his friends? I don’t care. Nic (Thwaites) turning into Sonic the Hedgehog? Weird.
The whole premise of the kids fighting to escape was just weird. Sure, there’s some shady stuff going on with this government organization that still uses CRT TVs, but how do you expect to learn anything about what happened to your girlfriend or your legs by leaving? The worst thing Nic witnessed them do was separating him from Haley (Cooke) while she was comatose. He was fed, he was spoken to, and a lot of details were kept in the dark, clearly, but I saw no real motivation to bust out. Personally, I’d cooperate to learn as much as I could learn about my situation.
And although I loved the twist at the end, it left so many questions unanswered. I understand Nic getting wacky robo legs, but why Jonah’s arms? What was Haley’s enhancement on the back of her neck, cerebral? Was the reason Damon (Fishburne) was all right with their escape because the aliens wanted them to escape to study them, or because they knew there was nowhere for the kids to go? If it was all a fake set contained inside “Area 51,” why couldn’t the aliens track the kids Truman Show style? They planned out an entire desert landscape but no security cameras or tracking devices? And why use a human handgun to shoot what I’m assuming are other androids (people? Alien people?)? There isn’t alien technology sufficient enough to put them out of service?
Of course the big question is…are they even aliens? Is Area 51 some weird portal to a crazy outer-space metropolis run by robots? Are the robots human creations? Is the alien face Damon showed Nic on the TV what the aliens really look like, or was it planted to see how Nic would react? They were willing to lie about Jonah’s captivity, why not make up aliens as well?
The questions pile so high I demand a sequel just so we can have some answers. And Eubank was open to expanding on the film, but that ship seems to have sailed. Yet, in spite of the many open-ended plot points, I don’t hate The Signal. It’s the kind of movie I love, that keeps you wondering how things will turn out and then smacking you in the face with its denouement. And Eubank’s directorial talents can only get better with time.