1 September 2003 | bob the moo
Intriguing but overly deliberate
Graham Hess is a preacher turned farmer since the death of his wife 6 months prior shattered his faith in the idea of God being in control and all things happening for his reasons. When his children awake to find a massive corn circle outside their house, Graham assumes practical jokers. When he sees men running outside his house at night he is sure of it. However when they begin to occur all over the world and are soon followed by global sightings of both crafts and aliens, he begins to realise what is going on, although the reasons behind it are unclear.
When it came out, Signs got so trashed by the majority of critics and imdb users that I decided to skip it. When friends got it out on DVD I was glad of the chance to see it, but wary that it may not have too much to offer. I was surprised that I enjoyed it, but I could also see why so many people had major problems with it. The plot is intriguing from scene one and only builds bigger as it goes along. My main problem with it was, just as the events take on a massive global significance, the film turns to focus on only the farm house. This is OK but I felt I needed to see more of what was going on elsewhere as the small scale action couldn't compete with the bigger picture.
The film has plenty of jumps but suffers from being overly deliberate and plodding for the majority. Every scene is shot as if it is teasing with the idea of an alien bursting out at every minute and thus doesn't feel like it flows or is as natural as it could be. The actual plot is OK but many will be turned off by it's concept that `God has a plan' especially since they came for sci-fi, not religion. The flashbacks don't totally work and Shyamalan's traditional twist is not as impacting as he probably planned it to be.
The cast is pretty weak considering the talent. Gibson plays it too tight and reverently all the way, it's hard to get with his character considering how straight he plays it. Then on the other side of the coin Phoenix is better because he is a little looser and more comic, but this doesn't sit well with the `on edge' feel that Shyamalan has given almost all of his scenes. Culkin is OK but too obvious while Breslin is better than she is allowed to be and really could have benefited with a bit more screen time.
Overall this is a good story at heart but is spoilt a little by the telling and the fact that, while we all saw it becoming a global sci-fi, Shyamalan was actually building it to be come a much smaller look at faith and God. This clash of aims is hard to accept but there is still plenty to enjoy as well as plenty of jumps, just a shame that the film's final quarter can't live up to the expectation the plot had created.