Movie Review - The Signal

Brenton Thwaites plays a smart kid trapped
in a trap in which he put himself in "The Signal"
This is co-writer and director William Eubank's THX 1138. It isn't quite his Star Wars, but it is his THX 1138, despite being his 2nd feature.

Eubank's first feature is Love (2011) and a lot of that movie is informative of this one. In fact, many elements of Love are the same or very similar to this one. At the center is a scientifically-intelligent, young man who is isolated and on which is being experimented. There's a fusion of man and machine, and both movies by Eubank are shot with explosions and high-action in slow-motion that are slight Michael Bay.

Brenton Thwaites is a very young, Australian actor who started on Australian television. He made a splash in the United States when he co-starred in the TV movie Blue Lagoon: The Awakening. Based on the cache of that modern-day remake, he parleyed it into back-to-back leading roles in three major Hollywood films released in 2014. The first was Oculus, the head-scratching horror flick. The second was the summer hit Maleficent, opposite Angelina Jolie and the third was The Giver, opposite Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.

Thwaites has the looks and burgeoning gravitas to stand opposite these heavyweight acting veterans. He does so again here opposite Laurence Fishburne. He has talent but not fully formed skills. In a very agitated moment, his American accent gets lost and his Australian accent comes roaring through the screen. He doesn't quite have the charisma requisite for movie stars or at least this movie doesn't provide much opportunities.

Brenton Thwaites plays Nic, a computer hacker and very much a brilliant mind, particularly mathematically. His affliction is that he needs crutches in order to walk. Either he had some illness or accident, which has crippled him. Flashbacks reveal he used to be a runner but now he can barely take two steps. Yet, the flashbacks might just be dreams, never real.

Nic makes contact with another hacker named Nomad whom he chases out to the middle of nowhere with his best friend and fellow hacker Jonah, played by Beau Knapp, and love interest Haley, played by Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel). A strange incident occurs and all of a sudden Nic wakes up in a laboratory with Dr. Wallace Damon, played by Laurence Fishburne who constantly wears a hazmat suit.

Fishburne has a similar role to his part in Five Fingers (2009) and he is in the same mode in a few ways as he was in The Matrix but more sinister. He's too calm and cold from beginning to end to ever be trustworthy. Seeing if the young man Nic can escape Fishburne's Damon is the main thrust of this story. Yes, the narrative is just a series of escape-attempts and ultimate failures. Eubank's ending here isn't as bleak as Love, and it's unsure if the ending should be hopeful or not.

I'm not sure if Eubank has as much to say by the end here as he did at the end of Love. Plus, he doesn't have as magnetic and engaging an actor here as he did in Love. Gunnar Wright starred in Love, and despite being by himself, alone on screen, and doing a lot of nothing, Wright managed to be more attractive and interesting than Thwaites.

Whereas Love is more akin to Stanley Kubrick a la 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Kubrick was at his peak, this movie is more akin to M. Night Shyamalan a la Signs and The Village when Shyamalan was on the decline.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.


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