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A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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All Signs point to a new classic thriller.

  • Jul 30, 2002
  • by
Pros: Great thrills, acting and story.

Cons: None

The Bottom Line: A fantastic thriller that does not rely on the old standbys.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Faith is a precarious thing. It is something that is different things to different people, and is manifested by people in many ways. There are those that base their lives upon faith and those who have little left. One such person is Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), a former preacher, and widowed father of two who is about to face his greatest test in the new M.Night Shyamalan thriller “Signs”.

Hess is struggling to make sense of the tragic and needless death of his wife six months past, and has left the ministry behind as the loss of his wife has eroded all the faith he had, and left him a sad and bitter man. His son Morgan (Rory Culkin), and daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin), are his sole reason for being and with the help of his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), Hess is able to provide a comfortable if lonely lifestyle in a rural area near Philadelphia.

That is until Hess and his family discover a series of bizarre patterns in their cornfield and notice odd behavior from the family pets. At first Hess liens this to an illness in the animals and some local playing pranks on him for leaving the priesthood, but soon odd sounds and visitors that they can hear but move to fast to be seen start to interrupt their lives. Local Officer Paski (Cherry Jones) attributes the disturbance to a couple of strangers in town whom have not been seen recently and advises the family to take some time off in town. Before leaving to the town, the Hess family learns via the television that odd crop formations have been appearing all over India and are spreading all over the world at an alarming rate. Young Morgan’s claims of it being a forecast of an alien invasion are scoffed at until an even stranger series of events happens and strange lights begin to appear in the skies over major cities.

Before long, Graham is faced with having to deal with the series revelation that he and his family may be in grave danger and the very survival of the human race may be at stake.

It is at this point that the film makes a bold and very rewarding move. Instead of becoming a big FX based us versus the monster ala “ID 4”, Shyamalan pulls the film in even closer and makes it an intense character driven story that is pulled off very well by the cast. The tension mounts and the fact that what is menacing the family is not shown clearly only adds to the tension, we know something is there, but like the Hess family, we never see or learn more than they do and this greatly adds to the tension of the film. This could have become a disaster in the hands of a weaker director but Shyamalan proves that he is one of the most gifted talents in film as he wrote, directed, produced, and stared in a small but vital supporting role in the film. Gibson is solid in his role as he portrays Hess as a broken man who has given up on everything in the world but his children and struggles to grasp the situation that he finds himself in, as many of us would indeed do so. Gibson plays Hess with a vulnerability and flawed persona that shows him as a regular guy rather than the larger than life characters we have become accustomed to seeing and as he did in “We Were Soldiers”, Gibson shows once again that he is truly a versatile and gifted actor who is confident to let his character and acting rather than his looks, humor and FX carry the film.

There was some good humor in the film and Phoenix does well blending the humor of his role with seriousness when it is required, it was easy to believe and care for this family, as they were not a stock Hollywood film family. Shyamalan cleverly avoids falling into some of the standard traps of films of this type as the audience like the characters are constantly kept in the dark. The tension mounts as the film goes on, and the nerves of more than a few people in the audience were becoming frazzled. To me, “Signs” evoked memories of classic episodes of the “Twilight Zone” where the human drama and imagined fear carried the story rather than an array of FX. It was very refreshing to see, and is one of the more pleasant surprises of the summer. As he did with “The Sixth Sense” Shyamalan has tapped into our subconscious fears and unleashed a gripping and cerebral thriller that does not tidy everything up in a nice simple package and will scare some and make you think.

5 stars out of 5

Gareth Von Kallenbach

www.sknr.net and syndicated


Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More Signs reviews
review by . February 01, 2010
The Signs are there now are you whilling to listen to them?....
For over 1,000 years stories of beings from another world have been told to countless generations through writing and art. But the real question is it true? Or is it all an elaborate hoax, a fairytale to put us to sleep at night or give us something to watch? Whether they are real or not has always been in question and truthfully we may never know the answer to our constant questions. But after almost 60 years of films that exploit and tell of alien invasion or aliens visiting our world and trying …
Quick Tip by . October 01, 2010
Very nicely put together. Neat foreshadowing, fun insanity easing the tension, some pretty good scares, and a thought-provoking conclusion.
Quick Tip by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Effective at surprising the audience and setting up it's premise. It's too bad that the payoff involves some real lapses in logic. Do not watch in the dark OR with a good sound system. Do one or the other.
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
this is a really good movie with some jumpy scary parts
Quick Tip by . August 08, 2010
Brilliant, funny, poignant, scary and thought-provoking. Take a quick look---and watch it all the way through...by yourself, in the dark!
review by . November 13, 2008
There are certain movies that are creepy beyond belief, but Signs still falls into my "bedtime movie" category from the overall feeling of comfort it somehow gives me, in spite of the shivers it produces. To me, I found it an excellent presentation of Ying and Yang, the balance of life, that for everything there is a purpose; even the most horrid of life's tragedies could be a sign of better things to come.     This is a beautiful story of family love and everyday life interrupted …
review by . December 17, 2008
M.Night Shyamalan seems to be making quite a name for himself in the Hollywood sphere and is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest directors in history.  "Signs" is a story about a fractured family's reponse to a bunch of mysterious crop circles that begin to enclose their small farm-house in a remote village on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The film progresses as crop circles begin to appear all across the world, spreading mass panic amongst the populations and indicating an extra-terrestrial …
review by . January 12, 2005
M. Night Shyamalan (originally: Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan) can now be held responsible for creating one of the best movies I have ever seen.     I loved every instant, of every second, of every minute of both hours of Sign's. Once I saw Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall's "John Handcock" in the opening credits I knew it was going to be special. (They also executive produced "The Sixth Sense" for Shyamalan) Not only was Sign's backed by these Spielbergian's, it was brought …
review by . April 25, 2004
M. Night Shyamalan has been hailed as the next Spielberg with such writing/directing/producing credits as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs & his new venture, The Village, and rightly so, in my humble opinion. This film is generally unlike The Sixth Sense & Unbreakable. That is precisely why Signs received mixed reviews from critics at the box office. Mel Gibson stars as the newly widowed ex-reverend/father Graham Ness. Along with his younger, ex-baseball hero brother, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) …
review by . March 05, 2004
I have to agree with a fellow reviewer that the so-called professional reviewer is wrong in calling this a "B" movie. "Signs" plays more with your mind and, to an extent, your faith better than most of the schlock that is put out these days. This film is very intelligent and very, very creepy. It probes your mind both spiritually(with Gibson's character) and mentally(with the use of the alien invasion). One of the creepiest moments in this film is when the television report reveals a "surprise" …
About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach ()
Ranked #112
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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It's contaminated. That's what pint-sized Bo (Abigail Breslin) says about every glass of water that she tries to drink, then rejects. This is just one in a long list of strange occurrences that are changing the lives of the Hess family. Things go awry when Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his brother, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), awake early one morning to find the dogs barking and the children--Bo, and her brother Morgan (Rory Culkin)--wandering bleary eyed in the corn fields. They discover a pattern of perfectly carved crop circles left the night before. Trying not to overreact, Graham ignores the media frenzy that has permeated all television and radio stations, and even shrugs off the oddly familiar information that Morgan reads in his book about extraterrestrials invading earth. The real challenge for Graham is to find the faith he needs to pull himself, and his family, through this unexplainable series of events. SIGNS is the long-anticipated film from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (THE SIXTH SENSE,...
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Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: 2002, August 2, 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 46min
Studio: Touchstone Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
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