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SIGNS (2002)

Struggling with his faith in God after the tragic death of his wife, Episcopalian Minister Graham Hess and his family soon have something to distract them from their grief as they enter a life and death struggle which begins with the discovery of large 500 foot circles in their farm's corn fields.

The cast includes: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, M Night Shyamahan, Patricia Kalember, Ted Sutton, and Merritt Wever.

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamahan.

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Promotional Lines: "It's Not Like They Didn't Warn Us."
"The first sign you can't explain. The second sign you can't ignore. The third sign you won't believe."


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M Night Shyamahan's SIGNS is a story of two life and death struggles, offering not only an exciting, scary suspenseful physical life and death struggle against marauding aliens (without making you ill), but also a spiritual struggle of a man to regain his faith in God, allowing a family to heal from a devastating emotional loss. These two themes meld nicely in this film, giving the audience little clues as to what is going to happen in both these storylines, satisfying the viewer on several levels, making it a classic film.

Episcopalian Father Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), his son, 12 year old Morgan (Rory Culkin), his young, 6 year old daughter, Bo (Abigail Breslin) , and his brother, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) live on their corn farm in Bucks County, PA, about 45 miles outside of Philadelphia, in a small, personable community where everyone knows everyone else.

6 months earlier, Graham's beloved wife, Colleen (Patricia Kalember) died in a tragic accident when the community's veterinarian, Ray Reddy (M Night Shyamahan) fell asleep at the wheel of his truck, which ran off the road, pinning Colleen to a tree. Graham was really devastated by her death, became angry with God, and left his church as he struggles with his faith. Throughout the film, Graham continues to dream of this painful tragedy, each dream revealing a little more to the audience of the details and what was said, giving the audience clues, as to how Graham may find his faith in God once more.

Being a single parent takes some adjustment, and while Graham is also struggling with his grief, his younger brother, Merrill, an ex minor league baseball player, now a gas station attendant, moves in with the grieving Hess family to help out. Besides suffering from the loss of their mother, the children have other challenges. Morgan (Rory Culkin) has severe asthma, and Bo(Abigail Breslin) has some peculiar idiosyncrasies, such as never being able to finish a glass of water because of something in it, and having an ability to dream of upcoming events. One sees glasses of partially filled water glasses sitting on top of various pieces of furniture in the living room.

Reality steps in, which temporarily distracts the family from their painful loss. One morning, Graham awakens from yet another haunting dream of that fateful night, to a sense that something was not right. He checks his kids' room to find it empty. He takes off running when he hears his little daughter screaming from the corn fields, with his brother Merrill close behind. They discover several 500 foot circles indented into the corn fields. Coming back into the house's kitchen, one of their German Shepherds, Hercules, had pissed on the floor (another clue). Hercules is then tied up in the yard.

After finding out that Lionel and the Wofernic brothers, who are old foes of Merrill, weren't responsible via the telephone, Officer Caroline Paski (Cherry Jones) comes to investigate the circles in the corn field, making the observation that the corn was bent in such a way that it could've only been done by a machine. Paski reveals that she was in the area, investigating the strange behavior of animals, acting like other predators are around, by being both vicious and peeing on themselves. Suddenly, Graham, can't hear his children, and he and Officer Paski quickly return to the house to find that Hercules is dead, killed by Morgan when the dog tried to attack Bo.

Things begin to heat up. In the middle of the night, Bo awakens Graham, and in a matter of fact manner, calmly says, "There's a monster outside my room, can I have a glass of water?" After taking her back to her room, and talking awhile, Graham suddenly sees what Bo really did see, standing on the roof. The audience doesn't get much of a look, but catches the alarm on Graham's face who springs into action, awakening Merrill, who comes up with a plan, somewhat amusing to the audience.

It seems that these crop circles are being made all over the world, making the news on every T.V. station. A trip to downtown by the family gives the audience more clues about what is going to happen next. Upon arriving home, the baby monitor that Morgan was using as a portable walkie-talkie, which was broken, suddenly picks up two aliens talking in a strange language of sounds and clicks.

After the T.V. broadcasts 14 lights coming from unknown craft over Mexico City, and other places in the world, and after an altercation between Graham and an alien beastie trapped in Ray Reddy's pantry, Graham, Morgan and Merrill come to the conclusion that Bo had already dreamed about; these aliens are hostile, and they need to fortify the windows and doors and prepare for a soon to be terrifying attack on their home.

After they match wits with the attacking aliens, who have no redeeming values, Graham slowly realizes that there are no coincidences in life, that things happen, situations occur, circumstances exist for reasons that sometimes only God knows. Because of the alien invasion, Graham has an epiphany; realizing that his dedication to his job as a Father, his son's asthma, his daughter's problem with water, his wife's dying words and his brother's ability to swing a bat, all helped to save their family. He realizes the truth of the Biblical passage: Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him... (God is able to turn every circumstance around for our long range good, to fulfill his purpose.)

This exciting and dramatic film, which is also lightly peppered with a little humor, was written and expertly directed by the talented M. Night Shyamahan, and shows the audience that Shyamahan knows how to direct both suspenseful, nerve-tingling action scenes, and dramatic, personal scenes of the various characters, whether in ensemble groups, duo or solo moments. He inspires his cast to give more, bringing out the best of their acting talent, thus stretching their abilities to give the audience some very fine performances, which enhance the storyline, bringing the script to life.

Mel Gibson is outstanding as Father Graham Hess. Gibson, through his facial expressions and skilled line delivery, really adds to the emotional zing of his scenes, as what he is feeling and thinking is evident to the audience. His skill at physical acting is also highlighted during the action segments.

A favorite scene of Gibson's takes place in Ray Reddy's kitchen. After Ray tells Graham of his unwelcomed guest, who is locked in the pantry, Graham tries to get a look at whatever is barricaded inside, by sliding a shiny knife under the door.

Joaquin Phoenix does a terrific job portraying, Merrill, Graham's very giving, younger brother who loves and admires his big brother, is definitely a team player on many levels, and proves to be a big help to all involved in this adventure.

Gibson and Phoenix together were electrifying, as they react and feed off each other's performances. Favorite scenes between them include their heart to heart talk in the dark, in the living room before the attack, and their tense confrontation with the nasty alien in the living room, holding the very sick Morgan, threatening to kill him on the spot.

Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin are very convincing as the children, Morgan and Bo Hess.

Cherry Jones is also very convincing in her small, but poignant part, portraying Officer Caroline Paski.

A favorite ensemble moment is when all the Hesses return from their trip to town, and the broken baby monitor suddenly begins to pick up signals, and a conversation in a strange language between two beings.

Also, be sure to have a box of kleenex for the last 25 minutes of the film, which is moving, thought-provoking and satisfying, a trademark of M Night Shyamahan's films.

The intense, involving cinematography was by the gifted Tak Fujimoto, who has plenty of experience filming thrillers, such as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, GLADIATOR, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, and THE SIXTH SENSE, as well as comedies and dramas, such as FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, PRETTY IN PINK, THAT THING YOU DO, SWING SHIFT, and COCOON: THE RETURN.

The original musical score, which really helps to draw the audience into the storyline, was by the gifted James Newton Howard, who also composed the music for THE SIXTH SENSE, DAVE, SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, THE FUGITIVE, and A PERFECT MURDER, which are just a few examples of his prolific career as a musical composer.

Rated PG-13 for "some frightening moments." While there is hardly any blood, and no gross-out scenes, the suspense tension and scariness of the action scenes, especially those sequences where the attacking aliens try to enter the house, as they search for any unguarded opening in the house, such as the attic, and the basement sequences are pretty intense, not to mention the two scenes when an alien momentarily grabs the boy, and later gets a hold of the then very ill boy, suffering from the after effects of a severe asthma attack in the living room the next morning. (When they went into the basement, they forgot his medication.)

If you enjoyed SIGNS, you may like INDEPENDENCE DAY, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, WAR OF THE WORLDS, UNBREAKABLE, WIDE AWAKE, and THE SIXTH SENSE.

 

Quotes from Father Graham Hess: "You just have to ask yourself, what kind of person are you? Are you the type that sees signs? Sees miracles? Or do you think that people just get lucky?" "Is it possible that there are no coincidences?"

Quote from Bo: "There's a monster outside my room, can I have a glass of water?"