Director: William Eubank
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp
Release Date: June 13, 2014
William Eubank made his directorial début with the 2011 sci-fi film Love, which received bittersweet reviews. Now Eubank is back as a director with another sci-fi film The Signal, but this time he was able to do something he wasn’t able to do for Love, get a big name actor like Laurence Fishburne in his cast. Paired with Eubank's skills in cinematography and Fishburne's glorious acting history, can The Signal be the hit Eubank has been aiming for?
Intrigued by reports that a mysterious hacker named Nomad has breached MIT's advance security system and exposed its flaws, freshman Nic (Brenton Thwaities) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) hopped in a car with Nick's girlfriend Hailey (Olivia Cooke), and attempted to track down the elusive computer genius. Eventually, a trail of clues leads the three students deep into the Nevada desert. There, they finally come face-to-face with Nomad and before everything goes black. Later, regaining consciousness in a high-security government facility, a confused Nic quickly finds that the worst is yet to come as Damon awaits him while Nic regains consciousness.
As expected, the cinematography for The Signal was nothing but brilliant and beautiful but coming in, that was not the biggest fear of the film, it was its cohesiveness. Usually, I applaud movies that do not give the audience all the answers in one shot, allowing us to figure it out by ourselves instead of spoon feeding every single detail the writers and directors want to put out. But Eubank, director and co-writer, takes that to a new level to a point where it gets uncontrollable and distasteful. There is one scene in particular that can play as a metaphor for what Eubank did with the film. It is when Thwaities and Fishburne's character are sitting at their desks across from each other, refusing to answer each other’s questions out of stubbornness and wanting to leave the other in the dark. I do not want to take away from the actual scene because alone the scene was great, I mean, when looking at the beautiful cinematography how can you not be entertained? But when you’re finally about to get an explanation of that particular scene, Eubank throws in more puzzle pieces and more distractions.
Eubank's mysterious and hidden plot points were driven in hopes to nag a sequel for this film. And based off of how the film ends you might want a sequel, depending on whether or not you’re fed up with all the mystery. Eubank should take some pointers (not all because it had its flaws as well but better executed) from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as it was better at building material for the next film and did not leave the audience in the dark with its set up. Eubank’s strategy can work in one of two ways: Everyone will demand a sequel because they want their questions answered or they will want to forget ever watching the film as they are annoyed with their list of unanswered questions.
Eubank also struggles with combining the different tones that the film sets. One tone focuses on the relationship between the characters and the other is that it is an over the top sci-fi flick. The two tones work with the underlying theme of the film but when you mesh the two together, its potency decreases as the film gets more intense.
Besides his cinematography, Eubank does shine with how he worked with the cast. He got the most out his younger actors while handling a big name actor like Laurence Fishburne. But hopefully with a stronger script next time, it would allow the characters more of an opportunity to shine. Cooke and Knapp were underused and Fishburne was too busy being mysterious to get any more out of him.
Overall, wait until you have an opportunity to see this film for free to finally decide to watch it, The Signal can be a pleasant surprise while channel surfing. A weak script and a long list of unanswered questions is enough for you to walk away from this film but if you are a fan of cinematography then the breathtaking visuals is enough reason to have this film in your DVD collection.
Labels: 2014, Beau Knapp, Brenton Thwaites, DVD, Laurence Fishburne, Movie Review, Olivia Cooke, The Signal, William Eubank