Having revitalised the ghost and superhero film genres, writer/director M Night Shyamalan turns his attention to that favourite Hollywood chestnut - the alien invasion movie.
However, don't go expecting another repeat of ID4's bombastic assault on the senses here, as again Shyamalan has attempted to reinvent the genre in his own low-key style.
Former priest Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) just can't seem to catch a break any more. First his wife dies in a car accident, leaving him to raise their children Bo and Morgan (Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin) with the aid of his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix). Now, the fields of maize around his isolated farmhouse are being hit by mysterious crop circles that appear overnight.
Initially thinking that it is the work of some local pranksters, the Hess family become more concerned when the media latches on to similar events around the world. Could this be the precursor to an alien attack, and if so, will Graham find the faith he needs to save his family?
The weakest of Shyamalan's films to date, Signs is still an efficient (and surprisingly funny) thriller that relies on suspense and characterisation rather than the usual glut of special effects. The story builds well, and the performances from the small cast are note perfect, although the questions about faith (and the way they are resolved) really grate. It's not a film for everyone, but those who enjoy more understated chills will find a lot to savour.
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