Just recently I posted a list of FAVORITES where I named M. Night Shyamalan as my favorite director.
I stand by this choice. I think the man is a great director, and a darn fine screenwriter too. Unfortunately after seeing his newest film, Signs, for the first time I find myself disappointed by his work.
OK, Iím gonna have to explain this.
See, Iíve seen 4 of Shyamalanís 5 films. Iíll probably never see his first, as he himself doesnít seem to fond of the finished product. I actually liked his sophomore effort, Wide Awake. Then of course the breakout hit, The Sixth Sense ( I donít have a REAL REVIEW of that one), and my favorite to date, UNBREAKABLE both made huge impressions on me. So when the trailers started running for Signs, I was thrilled.
Well, let me get the specifics out of the way.
Iíve often said that Mel Gibson doesnít do much for me either way. Well, Iíd like to say that here Gibson is maybe the best Iíve ever seen him. He doesnít say all that much, Shyamalanís male leads rarely do. But he shows plenty of range, and even slips in some of his usual charm, which against the eerie, tense backdrop, stands out nicely.
Joaquin Phoenix continues to impress. Heís been great in everything Iíve ever seen him, actually going way back to Ron Howardís Parenthood. He has a toughness to him that's undeniable, but thereís also a certain vulnerability to him. This movie is the first time I see him have interaction with children, and he pulls that off nicely as well. Like his brother before him, this Phoenix has a lot of talent.
Another younger brother, this time to one time super kid Macaulay and current well respected actor Kiernan (DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTER BOYS), Rory Culkin impressed me greatly. Shyamalan has always shown great skill in bringing out the best in young actors, and Culkin is no exception. Heís actually the most interesting character in the movie. I hope he follows Kiernanís lead and stays the course.
Abigail Breslin is not quite there in terms of the next big thing among child actresses, but she is definitely adorable. Donít get me wrong, sheís really good in Signs, but sheís cuter than she is anything else.
M Night Shyamalan does a great job with direction in Signs. The movie is creepy and eerie and intelligently presented. I would even venture to say that at times it's brilliant.I think my problem with it is the story itself.
Not the writing per se, but the actual story. Then again, I hate the whole sci-fi thing anyway, so aliens and space related themes are rarely gonna be something I like. But there are two stories at work here, the second of which I actually liked very much.
If only there had been another way to bring about the second, and in my opinion, more important story. As it is, I do recommend this movie. Thereís a lot of good here, and I hope a lot of people see it and that it does well and that Shyamalan continues to win the praise and respect I truly feels he deserves.
I just canít say that I like Signs all that much.