Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Nic (Brenton Thwaite) is a good looking kid suffering from what I am going to guess is Multiple Sclerosis since the reason he has lost the use of his legs is not made clear in this film 'The Signal'.  The plan for Nic and his best buddy Jonah (Beau Knapp) is to drive Nic's lady love Haley (Olivia Cooke) across the country to her new place of residence.  That's all good and fine, but what Nic and Jonah really want to do on this trip, these two kids being a couple of MIT egg heads, is find the mysterious hacker Nomad and then… well… I don't know what the plan is if they happen to find this guy.  Kick his ass I guess.

Luck of all luck, through executing some egg head type stuff, they were able to find the genesis of the Nomad signal.  Or not.  Next thing we know we hear a screaming girl and then blackout…

Now when Nic wakes up, he finds himself in some sterile hospital room attached to an IV and soon he is wheeled in to meet up with the boss of the joint, decked out in one of those natty HazMat suits, a man named Damon (Laurence Fishburne).  Damon just wants to know from Nic when he first encountered the signal.  Seems this signal is alien in origin and everyone who comes in contact with it is potentially infected with its alien juice.  Or something.  Damon is throwing out info like it's attached to 80 pound manhole covers so I'm not sure what he's getting at.  Nic is pretty confused right now as well, but his main concern is where are his girl and his homeboy.
Nic eventually finds his friends, though they might be a little different in some ways, just like he's a little different in some ways, and the rest of this movie is built on the house of cards of The Reveal so saying too much will ruin the organic experience.  I will say that your appreciation and understanding of these various reveals will be key to your enjoyment level when it comes to 'The Signal'.
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Capably directed by William Eubank, his movie 'The Signal' is a film that looks to find itself in a bit of a conundrum.  Sometimes we see a film with a complex narrative that is cooked down to a certain amount of simplicity to make it accessible to the audience, where 'The Signal' seems to do just the opposite.  It's a simple enough story, especially once everything is eventually revealed to us more or less, but it seems this movie looks to go out of its way to make it more complex than necessary.  It also doesn't help that the three acts of this visual play each carries its own unique theme. 

Act One:  Road Picture… three friends seeing the country.

Act Two: Psychological Drama… boy trapped in a world not of his making not knowing what the hell he's doing there.

Act Three: Chase Picture… The quest for freedom with the villain, or not, hot on his heels.  And these three separate themes never completely merged.

Still, there was a lot to like about 'The Signal'.  While the film might not have come together to from one single cohesive theme, there were positives in all three acts.  The young actors in the first act were engaging and their quest was involving, and for this we can thank the talent of our young director.  The second act started out well, the audience being baffled, right along with Nic, about what is going on, but it started to drag after a while as watching Nic stress became less interesting over time and watching Lawrence Fishburne not give anybody any reasoning behind anything he's doing got to be frustrating.  Act three was probably the weakest since I started losing interest in Nic and the plight of his friends near the end of act II, plus the alleged villain of this piece, when he finally started talking, was making the most sense so we were on his side anyway.  Not to mention the barrage of action sequences that caught a real bad case of the Slo-Mo's. 

Ah… but then we have the big reveal.  At the point when we are hit with it, it did feel like much-ado about not much.  This is what I mean about taking the simple and making it overly complex.  It was like 'oh… that's it?', then we move on.  As if the movie was written in reverse, the mind blowing twist being the first thing the writers thought of, then went back to fill in the blanks to get there.  It was kind of underwhelming, when I really wanted my mind blown.

Regardless, 'The Signal' might not have been a complete success from a narrative standpoint, at least in my worthless opinion, but it was well acted, very slick looking and had some good ideas behind it. 
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