The Signal

Directed By: William Eubank

Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, and Lin Shaye

Alien movies are a dime a dozen.  Just think about it.  In the last couple of months, we've had the likes of Under the Skin and Edge of Tomorrow.  We have the likes of Earth to Echo, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Guardians of the Galaxy in the coming weeks.  This makes it especially difficult to craft an exceptional alien flick.  After all, what can top E.T. phoning home, Jake Sully first roaming Pandora in his avatar, or even Scarlett Johannson roaming around Scotland?  We've seen just about everything filmmakers can throw at us over the years.  That being said, director William Eubank has a particularly daunting task with this weekend's The Signal.  While he puts forth a respectable effort, Eubank doesn't rise to the occasion.

Nick Eastman (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah Breck (Beau Knapp) are MIT students and rather noteworthy hackers.  Rather than get some sleep so that they can take Nick's girlfriend Haley Peterson (Olivia Cooke) cross-country for her year of study at CalTech, these boys are chasing down a hacker by the name of Nomad.  When Nomad not only hacks into their PC but Haley's idle laptop behind them, they declare war.  Tracking down his IP address, they found that Nomad did his hacking from a remote location in Nevada.  Since they're already going to be passing through Nevada, they might as well stop and check out this hacker who's seriously trying to get their attention.  Meanwhile, Nick and Haley grapple with the prospect of a long distance relationship with Nick on the East Coast and Haley on the West Coast.

As they hit the road, Nick, Jonah, and Haley find that Nomad is keeping tabs on them.  While checking the web, they see a post of Haley's car.  Undeterred they continue onto Nevada.  When they finally arrive at Nomad's place about 180 miles off their route, they each have a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach.  Ignoring it, Nick and Jonah opt to go into Nomad's dark, dingy home and explore.  While doing so, Haley is captured by some mysterious presence.  When Nick and Jonah try to recover her, the darkness claims them all.  Nick awakens in an underground facility and is greeted by a scientist named Damon (Laurence Fishburne).  Nick learns that he and his friends have been exposed to extraterrestrials and that he must stay in the facility for the foreseeable future.  With Haley in a coma and Jonah nowhere to be found, Nick is all alone in this creepy facility and wants out.  He begins studying the place like clockwork and finds that it actually does operate by the clock.  As much as he think he knows, however, there's far more that he doesn't.

I called The Signal within the first fifteen minutes.  I knew exactly what the major plot points would be, and I'm sure you would as well if you go see the indie sci-fi thriller.  It's entirely too predictable and does nothing to change the game for the niche genre.  I'll give Eubank credit for delivering some decently crafted thrills that will keep moviegoers on the edge of their seat.  However, this doesn't excuse the fact that Eubank for the most part rehashes many of the themes and storylines we've seen time and time again on the big screen.  At this stage in the game, we all could use something new and groundbreaking in the sci-fi genre.  The Signal is anything but that.

The film's saving grace is its cast.  For his part as our lead Nick Eastman, Brenton Thwaites gives us one tough kid.  He brings an intensity and intrigue to his character that's absolutely integral given that he has so much time alone on camera.  His co-star Laurence Fishburne, however, steals his thunder in a slippery performance as the scientist Damon.  All I can say is that Fishburne is one cold fish who oozes with menace and can send a chill or two down any moviegoer's spine.  His performance is a reminder that he's a great talent who is often underutilized on the big screen.

It's clear I have mixed feelings on William Eubank's sci-fi thriller.  The Signal gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with this one.