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Film / The Signal (2014)

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The Signal is a 2014 American science-fiction thriller film starring Brenton Thwaites and Laurence Fishburne. Jonah, Nic, and Haley are on a cross-country road trip that Jonah and Nic are using as an excuse to track NOMAD - a hacker whose recent intrusion at MIT was blamed on Jonah and Nic, almost resulting in their expulsion.

Not to be confused with the 2007 horror/scifi film.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Alien Abduction: What actually happened to the trio.
  • Anachronism Stew: A clue foreshadowing the fact that they are not on Earth. Damon uses a tape recorder. Mirabelle's car is an old ~1970's model. It should be long off the road. There's a payphone in the gas station.
  • Area 51: Jonah's theory for where they are. They turn out to be somewhere else entirely.
  • Arc Words: "Agitation." Nomad asks Nic and Jonah if they're "agitated." Later, scientists in the bunker "begin agitation" during an experiment.
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  • Ascetic Aesthetic: The facility Nic, Haley and Jonah are being held in, seeming like a sparse, outdated hospital.
  • Artificial Limbs: Nic gets artificial legs attached at mid-thigh. Jonah gets forearms and hands attached at the elbow.
  • Big Bad: NOMAD. Which is to say, Damon. Which is to say, the alien civilization luring and experimenting on humans.
  • Closed Circle, the Nevada desert for the facility they're being held in. Turns out that's because they're on a space ship.
  • The Cracker: Nomad.
  • Eleventh Hour Super Power: Nic's final run, foreshadowed by Jonah's final attack and his first run.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Nic's first scene has him cracking the pattern of a merchandiser game, tutoring the kid playing it, and handing him a dollar, establishing him as an intelligent and generous guy. His crutches are also visible.
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  • Fanservice: When Haley speaks to Nic and Jonah in the tub, you get a full-on shot of Olivia Cooke's behind in tight, tight underwear. Because she's going to spend the rest of the movie in a hospital gown.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Pretty much everyone at the facility who isn't Damon.
  • Genius Cripple: As established by a few scenes, MIT student Nic is very intelligent and also has a degenerative health condition.
  • The Greys: Damon pauses Nic's home movie on a tree that conceals a Grey, proving that aliens are involved. It's left unclear whether they actually look like that.
  • Gainax Ending: They're on a spaceship, Nomad is a robot thing. For what purpose did the aliens have an underground base and model city? Why were limbs replaced? Will they ever get home? Sorry, movie's over.
  • Ground Punch: Jonah's final attack creates a shockwave - through asphalt!
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Nic has a surprising amount of stuff to work with in his locked hospital room.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: The hazmat suits of everyone in the underground bunker have lights in the visor so we can see their faces.
  • The Load: Haley adds nothing to the plot other than motivation for Nic to escape and fight back. She spends a good portion of the film in a coma.
  • My Nayme Is: Nic and Haley, conventionally spelled Nick and Hayley.
  • Obscured Special Effects:
    • Nic covers up his legs with tape and sheets so he doesn't have to look at them. Of course this saves on the special effects costs, too - considering he's a main character.
    • Also note that while Nic's legs are cool and see-through, Jonah's hands are not. This allows for them to be simply practical-effect gloves for the actor to wear. Note they even save on him wearing those by having him wear the biosuit gloves even after the reveal.
  • Parodies of Fire: While Nic is running in the beginning of the movie, A very slowed down & remixed version of The famous Chariots of Fire theme is playing.
  • Power Glows: When the artificial limbs are about to do something big.
  • Red Herring:
    • The Signal itself. After waking from an unexplained coma, Haley comments on hearing something in the desert that Nic cannot hear. You might think that this is foreshadowing that the aliens tinkered with her head, but it actually foreshadows the fact that they're on a spaceship.
    • The film implies that the underground hospital has a trapped alien of immense size and strength. It's apparently Jonah, who used his alien-hands to carve a large gash into a wall on his way out.
  • Robotic Reveal: All of the staff in the isolation hospital wear hazmat suits, with only their faces visible. At the end of the film, Damon takes his helmet off, revealing that there is only circuitry behind his face. The others are probably the same.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The scribblings Nic wrote under his mattress.
  • Scenery Porn: Long shots of the West. The shots of running through lush forest.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Nic walks with two crutches because of an unnamed wasting disease which he says will eventually put him in a wheelchair.
  • Super Speed: What Nic demonstrated at the end as he ran away from those that want to shoot him down.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To Dark City. They're in a copy of Earth IN SPACE! for an alien race's strange plans. A character even rescues a goldfish!


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