Signs

By | Begun 02/01/2004 | Updated 09/23/2014 and 9/11/2015
Posted in Movies | ,
Mel Gibson questions realityBuena Vista Pictures
5 StarsSigns. Dir. M. Night Shyamalan. Perf. Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, Merritt Weaver, Patricia Kalember. Buena Vista Pictures, 2002.

A bereaved family bands together in the face of some very strange doings around their homestead.

Ah, the shining time of M. Night Shyamalan, such dazzling days they were. Signs arrived just as his still-bright sun began setting, offering a disturbingly realistic portrait of how things might go for a regular family should hostile aliens arrive. Even better, said arrival relates to the crop circles already among us.

Mel Gibson plays Graham, a bereaved pastor having abandoned the faith over the death of his wife. His brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) has moved in while he regains his footing, to help out with the kiddos (Rory Culkin and debut cutie Abigail Breslin). When sinister activity starts occurring in the cornfield adjacent to their backyard, things get very creepy, very quickly.

Shyamalan explores lines of logic and faith as things escalate to terrifying levels: “Those things don’t happen” becomes “Okay, this is happening” and “Are we truly alone, or might a Higher Power bring us a miracle?” The performances are superb, and the suspense unrelenting and almost untenable. Mercifully, Shyamalan offers well-placed, effective, and much-needed comic relief, as we’ve come to care deeply for this family.

Character, suspense, complexity, and wit: Signs is Shyamalan at his best, and why we hold out hope for his sunrise.*

(This entry appeared as part of the WGTC Top 100 Sci-Fi Films article.)

*It’s dawning again!

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