Sunday, November 9, 2014

3+1 Short Paragraphs: The Signal

2014, William Eubank (Love) -- download

Kent mentioned, and I recently re-read, his fondness for independent scifi, or more precisely "low-budget, dramatic science fiction." The Signal does not subscribe completely to the dramatic, but the lower budget and independent nature of the movie shines through. Think of Monsters and its almost entire run of slow travel punctuated by conversation, while monsters dot the background. Here in this movie, we have young kids, Nic, Haley and Jonah travelling to California to drop her off at university. Nic is with Haley, but she is leaving him for school. Haley loves Nic but there is a weight between them, an injury Nic sustained that leaves him with crutches. And Jonah, the best friend, obsessed with tech and this hacker NOMAD, who keeps taunting them. The opening act follows this, in gentle close shots that introduce the characters.

And then gears shift. Abduction, imprisonment and confusion. The kids find themselves in an underground facility where containment-suited Laurence Fishburne interrogates Nic. He asks lots of questions while telling him little of what happened between then and now. There are aliens mentioned and contamination and paranoia. Its all so intense, so mysterious playing on familiar tropes but with a sense of playing outside the rules. Then there is a brief reveal behind the curtain, or more accurately (*SPOILER*), under the sheet --- Nic's legs have been replaced by mechanical prostheses. Nic, who has been letting his disability define him for so long is given something. But why? For what purpose? Make your guesses. You may or may not be right, more than likely only partially correct.

I loved this movie, buying into its use of familiar plot points and alien abduction milieu. Area 57, strange desert folk and technology that is disturbing and intriguing. But its not completely cliche and its not a monster movie, as so many of these devolve into. Oh, there is the conspiracy, the explanation behind it all. But it is not a quick run to the explanation. This was partly because of Fishburne, who has learned a few things about drawing out the nervous confusion in his run on Hannibal. He is just creepy and unsettling in this movie, making a later reveal completely believable.

In the end this reminded me of Chronicle. The ending is grand and revealing, but not completely satisfying. This is, of course, because sequels are in mind and it has to leave a wide open landscape of possibilities. Young people have been enhanced by alien technology and it brings into question how human they will remain. But really, does it? I don't believe we are defined, as a species, by our limitations but by how we use of our tools to surpass them.

P.S. Don't mix this up with the other alien technology movie called The Signal which was more horror movie, but had a great three perspective story technique.

P.S.S. Kent saw Love and now I will have to go back and watch, see how a slower, more dramatic piece compare for Eubank.