October 31, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Clear 19°C
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Thrillers

To Catch a Thief

Cary Grant and ravishing Grace Kelly make the French Riviera a place to remember.

Dial M for Murder

Rarely has their been a more accomplished and suave villain that Hitchcock's Ray Milland.

The Two Faces of January

A Patricia Highsmith novel gets creditable treatment in Hossein Amini's debut film.

Science Fiction

Coherence

A close-by comet causes all manner of human unsettling in the mind of James Ward Byrkit.

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer strays far afield of a bizarre novel and ends up getting lost.

The Zero Theorem

When Terry Gilliam strikes out you can hear the sound waves a galaxy away.

Edge of Tomorrow (Live Die Repeat)

The reset button gets a boost in a sci-fi thriller that lets Tom Cruise mock Tom Cruise.

Godzilla

Gareth Edward's remake of Japan's favorite monster owes a nuclea debt Fukayama.

Fantasy

Sleep Dealer

Mexican Alex Rodriguez's 2008 B-movie touched on some prescient notions.

Jamie Marks is Dead

Director Carter Smith takes teen angst into a ghostly dimension, with little success.




Date: 2014
Directed by: William Eubank
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Laurence Fishburne, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Lin Shaye

The Signal

William Eubanks's engrossing second feature is a surprising amalgam of digital disorder and human frailty. Nerdy Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are MIT grads driving Nic's girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke) to the West Coast. Along the way, they want to track down a mystery hacker known as NOMAD, who has caused havoc by burrowing into MIT computers — and they think they have him located in a shack in Nevada.

The shack serves as Eubanks' portal into an assumption-warping Twilight Zone dimension. Nic wakes in an underground lab where he's told he and his friends have come into contact with extraterrestrial biology. He's now a quarantined guinea pig under the microscope of a laconic, contamination-dressed scientist named Dr. Damon (Lawrence Fishburn) whose every rational word seems menacing. Nic, wheel-chair bound when he entered the shack, now possesses Oscar Pistorius-style prosthetics. How?

In "Love," his ambitious but ultimately tedious stranded astronaut debut, Eubank siphoned from claustrophobia, and he does it again here. Only this time the circumstances are bizarre enough to leave answers up for grabs. Playing on the psychological and emotional details of confinement works to Eubanks' advantage. The above ground action is as compelling as the underground lock-in: who's the hunted, who the predator? How have Nic, Jonah and Haley become biohazard fugitives? Scrambled geography, peculiar zealotry, and Dachau-esque tattoos deepen the Area 51-style mystery. For an hour, sanity's lines are blurred just enough let the best kind of ambiguity set in.

That spell admittedly deteriorates badly toward the end, when Eubank, enamored of Nima Fakhrara's synthesizer-tinted soundtrack, feels compelled to dig his way out of (or further into) the maze of his own making. The ending is at once spectacular but unsatisfying. Still, the journey itself, which shares an endgame affinity with Alex Proyes' "Dark City," is well worth taking.

Reviewed by: Marcia Yarrow
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