Signs

A Film Review By Michael Haley

Rating:PG-13 for Mel Gibson saying a dirty word, some violence and overall creepiness.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin
Directed By:M. Night Shyamalan

Final Grade:

Hello ya’all!! Cuddly Michael here, ready to review a film! Signs is a cute film that tells the story of…

No, noooo!!! Agghh, (shot, stab, stab stab, shot) ……………………

Well, good news for you all. Cuddly Michael is dead!! Apparently although his reviews were spot-on, cuddly Michael frightened poor Toons reviewer Trevor (by the way Trevor, Michael stands by his Moonlight Mile review). We can’t have that, now can we? Taking his place is good ol’ honest Michael, who will refrain from this point on talking in the third person, as well as provide the good old quality reviews that make his readers throw their mouse through the screen and scream, “What’s his f***ing problem?”

Oh yeah, I probably should get on with the review instead of all this high school drama, so here we go. The film stars Mel Gibson as a former reverend, who has lost his faith after his wife was killed by a drunk driver (played by none other than director M. Night Shyamalan). He lives with his brother played by Phoenix, as well as his two children. One day, they discover their field has been transformed into a huge crop circle. Creepy phenomena similar to this begins popping up all around the globe, as earth can do nothing but watch and wait…is it all a joke? Is it part of an elaborate alien design? Are they signs from the Gods? I’m not telling.

Despite what another cynical, extremely jaded reviewer on this site says (hint, part of his name rhymes with Mason Gambel) this is some of the most fun you’ll have at the cinema in quite some time. The acting, pacing, and all the usuals are spot on across the board, but what really makes this film unique is how it perfectly captures the apprehension and fear that comes in not knowing what will come next. These characters feel like everyday citizens, so when reports of the signs come across the television and we watch it with them, the audience feels like they are not merely observers but active participants in the drama unfolding before them. All drama requires the willing suspension of disbelief for it to work…this film didn’t suspend it, it damn near shattered it for me (and for those who’ve read some of my other reviews, that’s quite a tricky feat). One scene in particular with a taped birthday party is strikingly haunting, whatever happens, and by this point the movie completely has you in its teeth and will not let go.

I’ve made it sound like the film is a good spooker, but what of the story? Never fear, it’s excellent as well. Gibson has lost his faith after his wife’s death, but does that mean that there isn’t a God? Can everything be up to cosmic coincidence? It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this movie (about three months, actually) so my memory’s a little foggy there, but this isn’t the usual thriller junk…Shyamalan writes his characters as flesh and blood people, with personalities, fears, dreams and such, and the actors know what to do with them. That I found myself caring about all these people is an achievement, and only helped draw me in that much more.

There are a few quibbles, but they’re petty for the most part. Shyamalan is known for his twisty endings, and although there kinda is one here, it’s a curiously mute ending that does little to reward the observant viewer. Also, the last shot resolves Gibson’s dilemma a little too neatly, and the payoff doesn’t feel warranted.

Nitpicking aside, this film is powerful, scary, and wonderful. It’s a blockbuster that’s earned every dollar it’s made, and is now playing for a buck at North Grand Five. Go give Jason some business and see it…you’ll be seeing a great movie, and annoy Jason because than he actually has to work. This is one of the year’s best films.

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