Film review by: Witney Seibold



            I have to tread lightly when describing M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film “Signs.” Like Hitchcock before him, Shyamalan relies so heavily on twists and exact scenarios that a thorough description could ruin an experience for those who haven’t seen the films. If I sound vague and speak in broad terms, I apologize.

            Ex-minister Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) is a wounded man. He has lost a wife and his faith in a single tragic accident about a year ago. He now lives with his two children (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin) and his directionless brother (Joaquin Phoenix) on an isolated farm in
Pennsylvania. He and his family seem fine, but there are undiscussed pains lurking within them. Things are unresolved. The whole family, and indeed the whole community, is thrown for a loop, however, when crop circles appear in their corn. The rest of the film is a slow unfolding of Graham trying to uncover the matter of these markings. Are they from aliens? Dirty pranksters? Could they be divine? This small family struggles with these possibilities…

            The mysteries are all solved, rest assured, but even implying what the solution is would ruin the film experience. Shyamalan is not a filmmaker interested in climaxes, action sequences, or even straightforward storytelling. He’s one of those rare filmmakers who has acknowledged that a reaction is more important than an action. And indeed, that’s what we get most of the time. Instead of the loud payoff we’ve come to expect from thrillers and action films, we see a series of reaction shots. Example: Near the end of Signs, there’s a shocking moment. Instead of seeing what it is what the characters are reacting to, we spend a long time on their faces. It gives us the quiet insight we want, but, thanks to scores of brainless flicks, have not been given.

            Shyamalan is an expert of filmmaking of the moment. He never brings us farther than the here and now, and we dwell frightened and enlightened in each moment. With “Signs,” he is poised to become one of the great filmmakers of our time.

Published in: on April 22, 2009 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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