The Signal Blu-ray Review
Pulling off a convincing science fiction world without a lot of money can be really difficult but when it works, like recent movies AFFLICTED or MOON) the world can actually be more believable than big-budget films. The difference in the successful films tends to be that they are focused on the narrative and much more focused on the characters and they pull in some great performances from little known actors. THE SIGNAL is just such a movie from indie filmmaker William Eubank (who also directed LOVE, 2011) and adds another welcome entry to the science fiction lexicon.
THE SIGNAL is the story of Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and his two best friends as they travel across the US . The other two leads in our band of heroes are Haley (Olivia Cooke) and his best friend Jonah (Beau Knapp). All three are students at MIT though Haley is transferring to Cal Tech and thus the three friends have embarked on road trip… but their relationships are becoming strained. Then they receive a ominous text message from a seemingly unknown source:
R U AGITATED?
Exasperated and scared, Haley asks Nic and Jonah to let it go, though they both want to jump in and tackle the problem as though it’s a mathematical theorem rather than something that could be dangerous to them. The rules change, though, when the hacker sends them a picture of Haley’s car taken while they were on the road that very same day. They decide to track down the hacker, who appears to live just a few miles off of their course. Upon arriving at the deserted house they encounter… something… and suddenly Nic wakes up in a HAZMAT unit where he is to be interviewed… er… interrogated until he explains his involvement and talks about what happened when he got to the house.
The only person we get to see/hear inside the Hazmat suit is Damon (Laurence Fishburne). Fishburne surprises with his turn in THE SIGNAL mostly because of his recent string of lackluster performances (which started all the way back as he was winding down Morpheus in THE MATRIX Trilogy’s later films. Seeing him here is a pleasant surprise – he has all the detail and nuance to his performance that are sometimes missing from his bigger budget releases.
THE SIGNAL is the rare independent science fiction feature that deserves to be experienced – not because it’s something dramatic and weird (which it can be) – because the characters are fully realized in the hands of these brilliant young actors and the filmmakers are incredibly talented. Visually striking with a strong story and incredible direction, THE SIGNAL should not be missed if you are a sci-fi fan.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) The video presentation of THE SIGNAL is absolutely stunning. For a low-budget feature there are some beautiful effects shots that were obviously a labor of love.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio track on THE SIGNAL is also impressive, immersing the audience into the world on the screen.
Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director William Eubank and Co-Writers/Consulting Producers Carlyle Eubank and David Frigerio The feature commentary track on THE SIGNAL is very good as they discuss their influences but frustrating in that they don’t provide more clarity to the story. The filmmakers love film and they love this movie and their passion for it but sometimes they spend too much time watching the movie. It’s a pretty good track if you like commentary tracks.
Deleted/Alternate Scenes (10:07) There are a number of scenes included that were cut from THE SIGNAL. None of them provide anything especially thought provoking and they do not appear to further the story.
Behind THE SIGNAL (09:22) This is a pretty good making-of feature included on most Blu-ray and DVD sets we’re used to purchasing. THE SIGNAL doesn’t break any new ground here but it does this well.
Brilliant! (00:17) A lone outtake from THE SIGNAL, this is like watching an inside joke that everyone must have thought was very cute. Don’t bother.