Combustible Celluloid
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With: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Laurence Fishburne, Lin Shaye, Robert Longstreet
Written by: William Eubank, David Frigerio, Carlyle Eubank
Directed by: William Eubank
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence and language
Running Time: 95
Date: 06/13/2014

The Signal (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Hacker and the Hacked

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Signal is the second feature by former cameraman William Eubank, and it looks terrific. It comes from a filmmaker that understands the concept of visual space and clarity, rather than the cluttered jumble of so many other sci-fi movies. It opens intimately, with cozy spaces for the three friends, then widens on those creepy, sterile white hallways, followed by disorienting, never-ending stretches of dusty Nevada desert.

Where the movie falters is in its plot, which does have a few cool surprises and powerhouse moments, but for the most part appears to have been borrowed from so many other sci-fi movies.

Best friends and computer hackers Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are road-tripping through Nevada, taking Nic's girlfriend, Haley (Olivia Cooke) to college. Tensions run high, since Nic worries about his future with Haley; he's in the early stages of a degenerative disease, using forearm crutches, and he thinks she'll give up on him. Also, Nic and Jonah have become obsessed with catching a mysterious hacker called NOMAD, much to the irritation and impatience of Haley.

When they believe they have tracked him to a run-down cabin, their adventure has only begun. They wake up in a weird, white building with no information as to how they got there and what's going on, and only a slim chance to escape.

The Signal isn't very good at disguising its intentions or throwing the audience off balance. But Eubank has done a fine job with his casting, creating three interesting performances and avoiding the usual disposable, interchangeable teens. And Laurence Fishburne has a tangy supporting role that looks like it must have been fun.

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