A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Signal is a low-budget sci-fi movie involving three college-age teens. It has a few twists that are better not discussed, though younger viewers who've seen fewer sci-fi movies will be more surprised than veteran viewers; suffice it to say that there are definitely some "jump shock" moments. There's a little blood, mostly in a scene in which a minor character is shot; bloody wounds are also shown, and there's some fantasy-style fighting and chasing. Two of the characters are a couple, and they're shown kissing (there's also a close-up of the girl's underwear-clad behind). Expect some strong language, including a few uses of "s--t" and "a--hole."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Best friends/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, 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 Haley's irritation and impatience. When they believe they've 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 or what's going on -- and only a slim chance of escape.
Is it any good?
THE SIGNAL is the second feature by former cameraman William Eubank, and it looks terrific. He clearly 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 many other sci-fi movies. The Signal isn't very good at disguising its intentions or throwing viewers 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Signal's sci-fi violence. How much does the movie show -- or not show? Does it tell a good story without relying on nonstop fighting and blood?
Is the movie scary? How much of that is achieved through what is and isn't on screen?
Would you have gone as far as these characters did in chasing an unseen rival? What would make the characters continue their pursuit?
Do the characters seem realistic? How are they similar or different to characters of the same age in other movies?
- In theaters: June 13, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: September 23, 2014
- Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Laurence Fishburne
- Director: William Eubank
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements, violence and language
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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