Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Science-fiction, thriller, drama
Running Time: 107 minutes
Summary: Former preacher Graham Hess (Gibson) lost his faith when his wife died in a car accident, and now works as a farmer a few miles outside Pittsburgh with his younger brother, former minor league baseball player Merrill (Phoenix), and Graham's two young children Morgan (Culkin) and Bo (Breslin).
Waking after a night disturbed by strange noises, the Hess family are shocked to find a large crop circle design in their corn field. Initially putting it down to local pranksters, the family soon discover that there have been reports flooding in from around the world of an unusually high number of crop circles appearing in a brief space of time.
Speculation is rife as to what caused the crop circles, some believing it to be an elaborate publicity stunt, some claiming it is a widespread hoax and others claiming that it marks the end of the world.
Morgan becomes fascinated with a book he buys about UFOs and extra terrestrials. The news reports on the television and radio become increasingly disturbing as strange lights are seen in the sky near the circles and video footage of briefly glimpsed strange creatures surface on the news. It soon becomes apparent that a full-scale alien invasion is under way, and the Hess family are among their targets.
Opinions: M. Night Shyamalan has had an interesting, if very uneaven career. From the highly successful and critically adored The Sixth Sense (1999) to the critically panned The Last Airbender (2010). Shyamalan is at his best when he is dealing with regular people pitted against otherworldly events. This film really has him doing what he does best, and provides an imaginative ground zero view of an alien invasion.
Unlike most films of this type there are no flashy spaceship effects or spectacular battles, or even ray-guns zapping everything in sight. The spaceships are seen briefly in TV news footage and then are basically lights in the sky. The aliens are barely glimpsed throughout the whole movie, and are usually depicted as just noises in the house.
The film features an impressively subdued turn from Mel Gibson as a tormented former preacher who is still stricken with grief and bitterness over the untimely death of his wife. Joaquin Phoenix is also good as the younger brother, who seems to be treated more like an employee than a family member. As the two kids, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin both provide powerful and affecting performances.
The movie does have it's problems, most notably a ludicrous final revelation about the aliens, although that really comes too late in the day to spoil anything. Also the elements of family drama and alien invasion movie, as well as the film's surprising religious overtones, don't always gel. At times it comes across as a fusion of Ingmar Bergman and Steven Spielberg.
However, this is an intriguing and fascinating film and a cut above most alien invasion movies.
"See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Do you believe that there are no conicidences?"
- Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) philosophises in Signs.
Rory Culkin, Joaquin Phoenix, Mel Gibson and Abigail Breslin watch for Signs