With So Many Options At The Multiplex, There’s A Real Chance The Signal Will Not Get Through. Which Would Be A Pity
For awhile I was considering not writing a review of William Eubank‘s The Signal, till I noticed that with behemoths like How To Train Your Dragon 2, 22 Jump Street, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Transformers: Age Of Extinction coming down the pike there might not be enough room for a relatively small movie with no huge stars, besides Laurence Fishburne, to make an impression.
And that would be a pity because The Signal deserves to be seen, though it can be a particularly challenging movie, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Things start out like a road movie as we meet Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Jonah (Beau Knapp) and Haley (Olivia Cooke), three friends who are traveling cross country.
They’re a very closely knit group (despite the fact that Nic is dating Haley, Beau fits in comfortably, and doesn’t come off as a third wheel). Beau and Nick attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and while I don’t think that they’re hackers, they’re remarkably computer-savvy and on the way to some sort of computer conference.
At MIT Nic and Beau encountered someone online named Nomad, who hacked their servers and wiped some important data. They encountered this person again on this trip, and learned that the signal originated from a location on the way to where they’re going.
This ‘Nomad’ is shown to be scarily good at what he does–to such a degree that he’s even able to access red-light cameras–so Nick and Beau really want to take him down a peg or two, and popping in on him is the way they decide to do it.
Besides, the guy is talented, and they really want to see the person who capable of doing what he apparently can.
I said earlier that this movie is challenging, which is for two reasons: The first is that that it has lots of elements of other movies. Luckily, they’re thrown together in such a way that, while noticeable, doesn’t feel like a hodgepodge of different ideas.
The second reason is perhaps the most fascinating. The way The Signal is written (by Carlyle Eubank, William Eubank and David Frigerio) the characters have no idea what’s going on, so it’s not like the experience in most movies, where you can easily tell what’s going to happen before the characters on screen do.
It’s the first time in awhile that I felt that I was a part of something unfolding in front of me, which was a really interesting feeling.
There are no spoilers because, besides being remarkably lame, when I first saw it I had no idea what type of movie I was watching (to such a degree that I was actually a bit put-out for a moment (it didn’t help that there were two ladies offering occasional commentary about what was happening on screen. I minded it less for what they were saying than for the same reason I don’t read movie reviews of a movie I plan to see: I am a bit impressionable, as well as an informational sponge, so if I read a review, then watch the movie I sometimes find it hard to separate my thoughts from those of the review I had read prior).
Eventually, Nic, Beau and Haley reach the origin of Nomad’s signal, and from that point the movie seemingly changes once again.
So, in a nutshell that’s what so interesting about The Signal: You think it’s one thing, though it’s actually something else. And it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before, though the way it’s assembled makes it seem a lot more innovative than it actually is.
And for me, a movie that takes some well-established tropes, breaks them down and reassembles them in some pretty interesting ways deserves more attention than (I suspect) it’s going to get.
And while I don’t like to be wrong (though it would be hardly the first time), this time I wouldn’t mind it if I were.