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Two young people chase after a hacker which nearly ruined their lives, only to discover the hacker is more advanced than them in a multitude of ways.
Review (with Spoilers)
Despite how horrible The Quiet Ones was, and how I honestly thought it would turn me off from watching Olivia Cooke in any movie she was in, the inclusion of Laurence Fishburne made me think this movie was worth giving a chance. After all, as noted in my Transcendence review, there aren’t a lot of sci-fi films which aren’t comic book adaptions or based off cartoons from the 80s and 90s. So I walked in hoping Olivia Cooke’s name wasn’t as bad of a sign as Johnny Depp without Tim Burton.
Characters & Story
Two MIT students, Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp), are on their way to California for Nic’s girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke) is going to be there for a year and they wanted to join her for the road trip. But, as much as they want to send Haley off they want to also track down this hacker named Nomad who damn near ruined their life. Leading to a series of events in which the three of them find themselves face to face with Damon (Laurence Fishburne) who is a man in a contamination suit within what looks like a secret government facility. One which our protagonist are kept in the dark about everything and are forced to try to escape from this world they have been transported to.
To me, The Signal feels like a really good SyFy movie if they weren’t obsessed with animal hybrids. It has a nice mystery element to it, utilizes technology in a basic way and yet doesn’t look cheap and, in a good way, you are left wishing there was more to the story. For I feel the film just gives you enough to get the idea of what they want you to know, the story they want to portray, and it builds the characters up just enough for you to care about their fate.
Like with Nic and Haley. They give you just enough background on them as a couple to make you hope that in the end, everything will be alright and despite whatever Nic is going through, they will remain the cute couple they seem. As for Jonah, I must admit I didn’t give a damn about him until after Damon is introduced and he sort of reinvented, or just finally defined, his character.
And as for the story as a whole, it comes in three parts and in each part I feel it tries to mix sci-fi with other genres to help keep you on your toes a bit. For the first part, when we meet everyone, there is a mix of coming-of-age story and then a little bit of The Blair Witch Project as they investigate where they think Nomad is. Then, upon a certain event, it becomes a sci-fi with a mystery element and you are trying to fully understand the who, what, and where of the situation. Leading to the final part where it becomes similar to an action movie and ends in a way I won’t say is perfect, but good enough to make you want more.
The only real criticism I have when it comes to this movie is how underdeveloped Cooke’s character Haley is. Her character doesn’t evolve much past being Nic’s girlfriend, and as Jonah and Nic go through these really cool changes, Haley doesn’t evolve with them. If anything, she devolves to becoming the damsel in distress who has some moxy, but not enough to be considered on par with the boys. Outside of that, though, recognizing this is a low budget film, I don’t see any other major issues.
Overall: TV Viewing
As can be seen by looking through my archives, I seek out indie movies which aren’t necessarily on everyone’s radar. Something which often leads to me finding films which justifiably are not well known, and films like this which may not be mind-blowing, but certainly are worth seeing. For, as said, The Signal comes off like a good SyFy original movie and truly makes me feel that if Olivia Cooke is really going to damn her career and become the go-to girl for sci-fi films or mysteries, then she is better off in films like this where at least the story is interesting. Especially since there is a true air of mystery which actually makes you want to explore what may or may not be happening, as opposed to you wondering when the film will be over for you figured out all that was going to happen within the first half hour.