Friday, June 13, 2014


The Signal

The Signal official site "What's going on?" It's perhaps one of the most frustrating questions to ask if you can't get any answer. That's precisely what the agitated protagonist constantly pondering in director William Eubank's gripping sci-fi thriller "The Signal" (USA 2014 | 95 min.). It's also the burning question keeps the audience at toe.

Nic Eastman (Brenton Thwaites) is a young MIT student who suffers early stage of multiple sclerosis. To accompany his girlfriend Haley Peterson (Olivia Cooke) to a graduate school in California, they take on a seemingly ordinary cross-country trip, tagging Nic's computer hacker buddy Jonah Breck (Beau Knapp).

However, the trip takes an unexpected turn when they are agitated during the exchange with an on-line hacker named "Nomad." They are provoked to come to an abandoned house in a deserted area in Nevada to meet Nomad in person. Then everything bangs into pitch black—one of very few predictable moments. When Nic wakes up, he is confined and interrogated by a mysterious government official, Dr. Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburne) in a bulky bio-bodysuit.

Instead of answering Nic's inquires about what's going on, Dr. Damon keeps asking Nic to recall what happened while constantly warns Nic with phrases like "You don't know what you're dealing with." While trying to figuring out what Dr. Damon is going after, Nic has no doubt that escape is the only way for him to survive.

The Signal Official Site

This is the second feature from the director William Eubank. He remarkably captures our attention at every twist of his story in the film. He lets Nic and Dr. Damon play a game of wit and puts the audience as the spectator to guess what might be the move from either side. But he tightly controls the pace of his storytelling and avoids falling into familiar traps. Despite a few incoherent moments, the story is mostly convincing and captivating while being part of the genre of science-fiction where leap of faith is often a necessary viewing requirement.

The director's cinematography background is on vividly display throughout the film. Even a shot of a rural highway landscape can appear to be crispy, mesmerizing, and elegant. His sparse deployment of slow motion is also strikingly effective and dramatic.

Although some characters like Nic's companions Harley and Jonah are underdeveloped, the main character Nic is well crafted and terrifically played by an Australian rising star Brenton Thwaites, who firmly establishes his superstar potential and heartthrob persona. It's no surprise that he also plays in two other highly anticipated films this year: "Maleficent" and "The Giver".

Despite the film's impressive success, there should have no sequel to this film. The audience should be left agitated about figuring out the truth. Sometimes, holding back the answer is more interesting than revealing it.

"The Signal" a Focus Features release, opens on Friday, June 13, 2014 in San Francisco Bay Area.

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