Monday, September 1, 2008
Signs; Science-fiction thriller-drama, USA, 2002; D: M. Night Shyamalan, S: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin
Graham quit his profession as a Episcopal priest when he lost faith in God after his wife died in a car accident. His brother Merril helps him take care of his children Bo and Morgan. But one day strange crop circles appear on their farm while thousands of UFO sightings are reported around the world. In fear of an invasion, the four of them hides in their house. The next day they get out, but an alien takes Morgan and releases poison on him. But since Morgan has an asthma attack, he doesn't inhale the poison while Merril kills the alien. After that, Graham figures there is a reason for everything, even for bad thing, and returns to his post as a priest.
Even "Signs" fit into the fantasy "twist ending" opus of director M. Night Shyamalan: they have potentials for excellence, but loose it at latest towards the finale. Whether the Academy nominated for 6 Oscars their darling "The 6th Sense" or "Signs" is irrelevant, because - up until "The Lady in the Water" - all Shyamalan mystery movies were equally good. Essentially, they are masterfully overstretched, thin, banal stories based on a clever short idea. "Signs" also have an extremely smooth structure, suspenseful-subtle build up of atmosphere that not even Hitchcock would be ashamed off and a few genius scenes (the TV broadcast of an amateur Brazilian birthday tape that accidentally spotted an alien is sublime piece of suspense) as well as an entirely unorthodox and refreshing "alien invasion/raid" concept - unlike "Independence Day", where the viewers are placed in an "all knowing" position from which they can know what is going on around the world, the whole event here is inventively shown exclusively from the perspective of the isolated, rural family in the countryside, and precisely such intimate setting, of not knowing what is going on, creates a fear of uncertainty - yet the ending is awful and disappointing. In it the main protagonist predictably regains his faith when he figures that even bad things in life have a purpose. But cynics would surely conclude that God should have prevented aliens to show up on Earth in the first place.