Movie Review: SIGNS (2002)

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Movie Reviews

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, Patricia Kalember
Review by Jarred Thomas


After former Reverend, Graham Hess discovers a crop circle at his farm; publicity begins to buzz, as crop circles are discovered around the world. With mixed thoughts on who is responsible, the family are about to encounter the unexpected and learn how to survive as a family.


One of the best films of 2002 M. Night Shyamalan delivers an exceptional and gripping film with an insightful look into the idea of faith versus coincidence. Signs is a testament to what great filmmaking can be when put into the right hands with a stellar cast led by the talented Mel Gibson who gives one of his best performances in years. While Shyamalan’s later films are considered failures, Signs is a reminder that despite his recent failures there is still a talented filmmaker and one who knows how to tell a heartfelt story with an abundance of suspense.

Signs tells the story of a normal family placed in to extreme situations, a signature set up that was usually seen in the original master of suspense filmmaker Hitchcock. Here M. Night uses techniques that are similar to the past great director but presents his own unique take on thrillers blending science fiction elements.

Rod Serling was known for creating the Twilight Zone, a series about average people placed in extraordinary circumstances that can test their moral resolve, all of which to provide a message that Serling either subtly or blatantly addressed. In Signs M. Night follows up on Serlings method and while the film is not necessarily intended to rouse social change or insight, it does present a compelling argument on the notion whether or not there is such a thing as a coincidence or is there an outside force at work.

Gibson plays an ex priest who lost his faith after the death of his wife. He now lives with his two kids and younger brother, who sleeps in the barn trying his best to help support his brother, although his slacker ways sometimes interferes with his intentions. The concept of faith plays an integral role in the film, and while there may be those who view Signs as trying to get its audience to believe in something, in the context of the film it’s crucial that the characters do.

It is their faith that guides through the toughest obstacles they face. Gibson does a wonderful job struggling to accept the faith he once had. But his inner anger continues to consume him, eventually culminating in a quiet tirade in which he pleads for his sons’ life. The scene where he has his son laying on top of him trying to get him to breathe along with him is certainly the most captivating. You find yourself trying to breathe along with them as if you’re helping.

The supporting cast is superb. Rory Culkin is excellent and Abigail Breslin is sweet and innocent delivering enough cute moments with overdoing it. The scenes with Culkin and Breslin are well handled as the two young actors not only give some lighter moments in the film but also deliver sobering thoughts about the events taking place. While they sound like children, their perspective on what’s happening is sharp.

Signs is the last great film M. Night. His later films are disappointing, and that’s being generous. But his earlier films such as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, are truly well done movies with engaging stories and complex characters. Signs is an instant classic with plenty of thought provoking ideas, thrilling scares and entertaining moments.

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