The Signal features Brenton Thwaites as Nick - a former college-team runner forced into retirement by muscular dystrophy. He is travelling across America with his best buddy Jonah (Beau Knapp - Super 8
) to drop his girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke) in California. Along the way, the MIT undergraduates are pestered by the persistent & skilled hacker NOMAD. They manage to track down his address to a rural location in Nevada and decide - as it's along the way - to drop by and pay him a surprise visit, unaware of what is waiting for them at the other end. One thing is clear, nothing will ever be the same...
The Signal begins as any number of other bait movies, you fully expect to know the direction this film will take and that's OK because director William Eubank (from Sci-fi thriller Love
) has intentionally laid the trap for us to walk into like the characters. The direction of the open-road and tension between the characters at the crux of their lives is palpable set to windscreen shots of ominous thunderstorms. The sense of foreboding as the trio explore the derelict house in the desert is incredible. What is so refreshing about the direction is the constant twists that throw your plot expectations out of the window, acted incredibly ably by the relatively novice cast. Whilst this film may begin life as one thing, it rapidly becomes another. The premise is supported by an excellent aesthetic to the milieu and some truly impressive CGI. Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix Trilogy
) provides an excellent rendition of an absolutely unreadable Dr Wallace Damon; head of the 'transition' team.
Extras: There is a commentary by the director and producer, which I had hoped was going to explain a little more of the subtext to the film, however it is rather limited with the guys even themselves pointing out their lack of distinct direction and context at several points. Featurette "Behind the Signal" offers a look at the making of the film with set footage. The camera pans around letting you see the production effort that went into several scenes, while also letting you get a brief glimpse at the personalities of the cast. There is also "Brilliant!", which is an amusing 18-second clip of Fishburne.
Whilst The Signal is probably not the greatest Scifi film ever it is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air to the genre, avoiding time-worn cliches and really leaves you pondering the fate of the characters and wider context. For that reason alone, this is well worth a watch!