Even though summer is the season for big-budget blockbusters, it is also a good release time for smaller, more personal sci-fi thrills. Just ask Duncan Jones (Moon), Neil Blomkamp (District 9) and Mike Cahill (Another Earth), who made their marks with imaginative stories and character studies during the warm season. This summer’s small sci-fi hit could very well be The Signal, a breakthrough from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival starring rising star Brenton Thwaites and Laurence Fishburne.
The first trailer for the film released today and it is thrilling and evocative, filled with effects that look visually dazzling despite the small budget. We get some beautiful imagery, reminiscent of Shane Carruth’s 2013 drama Upstream Color, and are also promised action, mystery and romance, without spelling out how all these genre elements fit together. It’s a stunning couple of minutes that benefits from being vague rather than explaining the plot.
William Eubank’s film tells the story of two MIT freshmen and hackers, Nick (The Giver‘s Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp), who follow a rival hacker into the desert and end up in confinement, not entirely able to understand how they got there. Joining them on this voyage is Nick’s girlfriend, Hailey (Bates Motel‘s Olivia Cooke). Laurence Fishburne is their captor, and his smooth narration guides the trailer forward and keeps the mystery alive. The title for The Signal refers to a sound that seems to infect the people who hear it, although the trailer is also careful not to reveal too much about how this device fits into the story.
Early reviews of The Signal were positive and the haunting trailer and summer release date (June 13) makes one more confident in the final product. Since the film’s vague trailer is meant to puzzle and provoke curiosity, this could be a modest hit for sci-fi enthusiasts uninterested in a fourth Transformers flick or who have already checked out X-Men: Days of Future Past.