|Pick of the Week:|
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Tagline: "It's not like they didn't warn us."
Length: 106 minutes
Mel Gibson stars in the sci-fi thriller "Signs," which was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable"). "Signs" was a big box-office hit in its theatrical release, and I thought it played well on DVD when I watched it at home recently. There are quite a few bonus materials on the DVD, and I've listed them below. No feature-length commentary track is provided, but there are many chances to see and hear Shyamalan in the documentary featurettes.
"Signs" takes place in rural Pennsylvania, 45 miles outside of Philadelphia. Gibson plays Graham Hess, a man who lives on a big farm with his two young children and his younger brother (Joaquin Phoenix). We eventually learn that Graham's wife recently died in an accident.
One morning Graham wakes up to find huge crop circles have appeared in his vast cornfields. Soon the family dog tries to attack Graham's daughter, but his son (Rory Culkin) manages to save her. That night Graham looks out the window and observes a strange human-like figure.
Next day the Hess family sees television news reports of crop circles having been found in India. Then Graham's son uses a baby monitor to pick up trilling noises that could be some form of communication. When Graham goes outside his house that evening, he hears similar trilling noises and catches a fleeting glimpse of a leg disappearing into the tall corn. Later, the Hess family watches TV and sees a live feed of unidentified air vehicles hovering over Mexico City.
As the Hess family struggles to come to grips with the mysterious events they find themselves caught up in, we gradually learn more about Graham. He used to be a reverend, although the film never identifies his denomination. But since Graham's wife was killed six months ago, he has stopped wearing his clerical collar and tells people not to call him "Father." Indeed, Graham has lost his faith.
With all signs pointing to an impending invasion by extraterrestrial aliens, Graham must protect his family as best he can. And his problem is immediate because of indications that extraterrestrials are already present in his area. The film then goes on to show how Graham deals with the threat from the extraterrestrials at the same time he grapples with his crisis of faith.
I think the best thing about "Signs" is the atmosphere of ominous dread that Shyamalan creates. Even though I was at home, I almost jumped out of my seat a couple of times while watching it. I also enjoyed the film's humorous touches, and I found Mel Gibson to be very charming in the role of Graham Hess.
But "Signs" feels very corporate to me, and I thought it had a predictable plot trajectory. None of the characters seemed real to me, particularly the kids, who were just too precious to be believable. Still, I found the film to be quite entertaining, and I think it has very broad audience appeal.