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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Signs (2002)



Reviews and Comments

M. Night Shyamalan does it again. On the heels of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable comes yet another spectacular atmospheric thriller. Mysterious signs appear in crop fields overnight, the first of several strange events that seem to point toward an imminent alien invasion, incredible as it seems. But this external plot is only a catalyst for the real story, which is how a grieving widower and his children recover from the loss of the wife/mother and of faith.

Shyamalan is not afraid to take his time to establish the characters and build tension, for as well known as he is for spectacular endings, it is the journey that counts. Gradually, we come to know and care for the characters and engrossed in the film's world and atmosphere. Amidst the looming sense of foreboding is a surprising degree of light humor. Among other things, Signs is one of the most well-crafted and effective thrillers in recent years.

The end is not at all in the tradition of Shyamalan's earlier films, which is just as well. But it's just as incredible: I don't remember when I was last so undistractably riveted in a movie theater than in the last ten minutes or so of Signs (although admittedly this part of my response to the film was heavily personal). Besides casting a surprising light on what has come before, it explores some weighty spiritual territory rarely covered by mainstream films, and it does so with intelligence and respect for its audience, acknowledging the difference between the unknown and the unknowable and taking a clear stance while encouraging the viewer to apply his own interpretations to the themes.