Signs (2002)

(In theaters, August 2002) On one hand, I really do hate the “science-fiction” elements of Signs. Bargain-basement aliens with inconsistent powers, shoddy “what the kid reads from the book is always right” rationalization and oh-so-profound spiritual conclusion don’t sit well for me and if that was the only thing worth talking about in this movie, I’d be the first one to recommend burning down all copies of the negative. But that not what Signs is about, which leads me to what I did like about the film: the sense of looking at a huge story through a very small hole, the fantastic cinematography (that overhead driving-into-town shot; whoah!), the awesome (mis)direction, the suspense, the symbolism? Replace “aliens” with “demons” and maybe you’ll start to appreciate the film as a parable more than any actual attempt at hard-core SF. Mel Gibson is entirely believable as the lead, with most of the other actors (including the kids) also doing a good job. M. Night Shyamalan is a commercially overrated director, but if he’d be doing niche genre movies, everyone would be claiming him as their best thing ever. In the meantime, he’s proving adept at telling clichéd genre stories through very unusual methods, using masterful camera techniques and coaxing impressive performances out of his actors. There’s a lot to hate and a lot to love in Signs, but even more to be impressed about. Swing away!

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