An imaginative concept that suffered mildly from some slow-pacing, and lack of depth in the main plot.
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While moving his girlfriend Haley (Cooke) to California, Nic (Thwaites) and his fellow computer-geek friend Jonah (Knapp), are lured to a remote location in the desert by an elusive computer hacker who recently broke into the MIT servers where they attend classes. In the darkness of night, and out in the middle of nowhere things suddenly go wrong. Nic awakes in a maximum security quarantine facility, separated from his friends and being asked a barrage of vague and leading questions by an ominous man in a fully equipped hazmat suit calling himself Damon (Fishburne).
I had somewhat mixed feelings after watching this film. On the one hand it was a creative concept to a science-fictions film and (at times) extremely well done. The cast members were all very strong in their performances, Brenton Thwaites and Olivia Cooke were both convincing in the lead roles. They developed a strong chemistry between each other to pull off the adolescent love story that served as the films second plot.
The first-act starts out very solid and builds intrigue as it introduces the three young characters and their relationship dynamics. It was a compelling set-up for the main plot of the film that really kicks off at the beginning of the second-act. Laurence Fishburne is his usual calm and calculated self as the secretive Damon, and as he delivers his monotone lines he is easily able to convey the true mysterious tone of his character.
It fits well with the new location the film brings the viewer to as the main characters awake in the maximum security facility. With little information to go on you are left with only assumptions and soon are trying to figure out what happened as much as the main characters are.
The special-effects were used just right in this one. They were clean and well done as well as timed right to deliver the most visual bang for their buck as the story did feel as if it were dragging through the script. The problem with this film for me was it seemed to take too long to develop and reveal the plot twist. The third-act does boast some great science-fiction moments, but for a film with a moderate run-time, it seemed too rushed at the end and at times too slow in the middle.
I can understand budgets being a concern, especially with the inflated prices of CGI these days, but with some added dialogue I felt this films main plot twist could have been laid out much clearer. These minor additions would have resulted in grand improvements to the true message of the script. As it was it felt too slapped down onto the viewer at the very end, which as itself did work, but not as much in my opinion if it would have been eluded to earlier in the film for the viewer to wrap their head around.
Overall despite these flaws “The Signal” was not all bad and did deliver an enjoyable enough science-fiction tale. More for young-adults however in my opinion given how the tone of the film presented itself as the end-credits began to roll. For the small budget it had to work with it was clear to see the effort put into the project. For this it is worth a (one-time) watch, maybe more for younger audiences or die-hard fans of the genre.
Time: 97 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For some thematic elements, violence and language)