Signs (2002) 

Alan:

Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:


Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Signs was about 1000 times better than I though it was gonna be!  It is one of those movies that you make plans to go see again as you're leaving the theatre.  Any one who makes an alien invasion movie is always guaranteed my ticket revenue, but M. Night Shyamalan has made a masterpiece that I would easily place on the top shelf right next to Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The story begins with strange occurrences in a small town in Pennsylvania.  A family's corn field has been disturbed and the resulting "crop circles" have everyone on edge.  We soon find out that these disturbances are happening all over the world and increasing in frequency.  Earth is being visited.  

The entire film is seen through the perspective of one family.  They learn, as we do, from television broadcasts what is happening all over the world.   The anxiety and fear in the voices of the newscasters is sufficient to induce panic in both the characters and the audience.  The pacing of the movie is ominous and constantly building.  There is a sense of apprehension even as the opening credits un-spool.

I will not go into great detail in my review because Shyamalan loves surprises and twists and I do not want to deny you the thrill.  

Mel Gibson is terrific as the head of the family.  His typical over-the-top action hero energy is significantly muted by the director.  Much like the Bruce Willis performance in Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense.  Joaquin Phoenix expertly plays the younger brother who has moved back home to help his older brother in his time of need.  The children are both excellent actors as well and do a great job with the idiosyncrasies of their roles.

For an alien invasion movie the special effects are minimal.  This does not, however,  in any way diminish the film.  In fact, this movie could be seen as the antithesis of Independence Day (my all time favorite alien invasion movie) but just as thrilling.

Signs is a perfect movie.  I very highly recommend it.  If you only see 10 movies this summer, make sure this is one of them.