Review of "The Signal"
|No Signal in The Signal
I love plot twists. I love science fiction. I love romance. If you want to see how a movie can have all of these things and still be a flaming bore, check out The Signal.
I'm at a loss where to start with this incoherent mish-mash. The review in the Washington Post pointed out the plot involves less surprise and is more "like being had by a third-grader with a good knock-knock joke." I'd say a bad knock-knock joke, but that's just me. In case anyone actually wants to see this movie, I won't reveal the moronic "twist" that's built around a set of numbers tattooed on the protagonist's wrist, except to say that it was one of dozens of eye-rolling incidents in the movie.
Then there are the science fiction elements. This movie is about an evil hacker. Oh, no, wait. It's about alien abduction. No, no, that's not it. It's about an extraterrestrial virus. Oops, wrong again. It's about an evil government generated virus. Wait, wait. Don't tell me! It's really about engineering super soldiers. I give up. The movie tries to splice together bits of Hackers, Close Encounters, The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak, and The Six Million Dollar Man with a dash of Blair Witch Project and who knows what else thrown in. I mean, what was that cow about? The result is a nonexistent plot that lurches along like a bad acid trip. The screenwriters seem to mistake vagueness for depth. Or something.
Consider the the romance. I guess that the dialogue-less flashbacks showing the leads riding a carnival carousel are supposed to establish their relationship. At least, the scenes were all blurry and used a warm palette. The score turned kind of squishy, too. But these were so poorly integrated with the rest of the movie that I couldn't really tell. Indeed, the protagonist is on crutches for much of movie, and I wondered if these scenes were about an injury-causing accident at the carnival. If the protagonist were in a coma or hallucinating, that would account for the chaotic plot. Maybe that's another good movie the screenwriter was trying to imitate--Stay--but I don't think so. Besides, the backstory appears to be that the crutches are due to the early stages of MS, something you'd never figure out from, you know, watching the movie.
This isn't to say the film is all bad. It's based on a short that premiered eight years ago at Sundance, and the feature film was selected for the 2014 festival. The marketing is pretty good, since it hypes the movie's Sundance connection. The cinematography is amazing--including the squishy parts--particularly since this was a low-budget offering. The score is unusual, but effective. Given the dismal quality of the screenplay, the acting is more than credible. Laurence Fishburne is particularly awesome at making his banal lines sound profound. There's also a brilliant cameo by Lynn Shaye that almost makes up for the rest of the movie. Almost.