The Signs are good for another hit

Preview by Jack Foley

M NIGHT Shyamalan's hot run shows no Signs of cooling off if the success of his latest thriller is anything to go by.

Signs stars Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix and focuses on the issue of crop circles and possible alien invasion. It is a thinking man's Independence Day, a creepy potboiler capable of delivering some terrific scream-inducing moments, in between its near-perfect injections of humour.

Gibson stars as Graham Hess, a former priest-turned-farmer, still trying to come to terms with the death of his wife and the subsequent loss of faith which followed. Living on his farm with his brother (Phoenix) and two children (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin), Gibson's life is about to change, following the discovery of a series of elaborate circles in his corn fields - circles which are beginning to appear throughout the world as the warning of what is to come.

The strange phenomenon will eventually force Gibson to confront his feelings and to face up to his children about the impact his wife's death has had on them - all the while aware that the signs in question could well spell the end of the world.

Indielondon caught a screening of the film last week and will be recommending it highly when it is released next month. Gibson, as ever, is superb as Hess (and somewhat restrained than usual), while Phoenix builds on a strong reputation for reliable support turns, providing much of the movie's humour. Shyamalan's direction is also highly effective, striking a good balance between the action and the sentiment (which seldom becomes overbearing). He also throws in at least two leap out of your seat moments, guaranteed to keep viewers on their toes.

Written, produced and directed by Shyamalan, Signs opened to a healthy opening in the US earlier this month and was largely praised by critics in all quarters. It opens here on September 13.

WHAT THE US CRITICS SAID:

FilmCritic.com describes Signs as 'a bizarre mix of V, Independence Day and Panic Room', while Planet Sickboy refers to it as 'everything a big summer blockbuster ought to be' and awards it eight stars out of a maximum 10.

ReelViews said that 'Shyamalan creates a claustrophobic atmosphere and keeps the tension level high', while JoBlow's Movie Emporium delightedly declared: "The streak continues!"

A little more discerning were the likes of Entertainment Weekly, which awarded it a B- and said ;for a while, the portents are captivating', while the Hollywood Reporter wrote that it 'will inspire an enthusiastic following, but will probably disappoint the crowd that likes spooky alien space invasion movies to contain more hard-core action and less spirituality'.

On a negative note, the Boston Phoenix wrote that the movie suffers from 'overcareful touches that register as either pretentious or slightly ridiculous', while Variety believes the 'lack of substance is plainly seen'.

However, Rolling Stone maintains that it is 'a dazzling white-knuckler', which is where we agree! Hell, even Radio One's James King has stuck his neck out and recommends it.

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