Director: William Eubank
According to legend, Kevin Rowland stormed into Dexys’ rehearsals one day, slammed a load of classic Stax records on the table, and said his band’s ambition should be to sound “like this, but better”. William Eubank’s first feature “Love” seemed like an audacious attempt to out-Kubrick Kubrick. 2001-style, it came in three parts – the first historical, the second set aboard a space craft (in this case The International Space Station) and the third a trippy finale which dared to walk the line between profound and pretentious (did I mention it was his first feature?). Like 2001, it divided its audience sharply, with as many infuriated or bewildered as awestruck.
For Eubank’s second film The Signal we are in more familiar genre territory. Three young friends have traced a hacker who has jacked into their computers and curiosity causes them to pay him or her a visit. When they arrive at the location something weird happens and in the next scene the main character, Nic, awakens in what appears to be a government containment facility surrounded by men in decontamination suits but with his friends nowhere to be seen. From here the plot twists in ways both genuinely unexpected and familiar to those with a taste for sci fi leaning conspiracy thrillers (Area 51 even gets a namecheck at one point).
While a lot of the blockbusters (particularly in this genre) of recent years have fallen flat, The Signal is the latest in a line of low budget science fiction films which have impressed. the availability of affordable CGI has allowed these films to look terrific, but it has been the skilful direction and thought-provoking scripts that have really impressed. (So much so, you wonder if it’s a good thing the way the likes of Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson and Josh Trank have been drafted by the big studios merely to helm blockbusters and sequels).
Some of the acting here is noticeably low budget, although Laurence Fishburne is on hand to anchor things. Unfortunately, the only female character does nothing and is quite superfluous.
It’s taken a while for The Signal to get a release over here – in truth it’s a very well made but unexceptional sci fi thriller – but I hope it does well as this director is one to watch.
*Love is available for under a fiver on dvd – it’s worth a punt.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
The Machine, Chronicle, Lunopolis