“The Signal,” from Focus Features and Low Spark Films, brings to the screen an unassuming sci-fi fantasy flick with fresh, genuine, dialogue and sharp visuals that twists into a layered, hidden, unusual and unexpected fact action thrill ride.
Written by William Eubank and Carlye Eubank, “The Signal” stars Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp and Lawrence Fishburn.
“The Signal” begins as three college friends fresh out of MIT are taking a road trip driving, Haley, played by Olivia Cooke, to Stamford to begin a post grad program. The trio, Nic, played by Brenton Thwaites, Haley/Olivia Cooke, and Jonah/ Beau Knapp, have allowed themselves to be pulled into a cat and mouse bait game by a superior hacker, who calls himself “Nomad.”
The guys are bent on finding Nomad and his signal, and after determining the routing path, they believe that have him located in a remote area of New Mexico. Deciding finding the hacker is a priority the three follow the GPS locator and, enter, while understanding it is a seriously bad idea, the hacker’s ramshackle house.
“The Signal” is clearly a sci-fi fantasy and yet, the mixing of high level technologies, unknown to the private citizen, and government experimental programs that in reality should have never been initiated become the premise behind this action adventure that adds the three unsuspecting MIT graduates into the scientific equation that could, in reality, be fresh out of a DARPA project and contemporary headlines.
Waking after the midnight encounter with the unseen force, the three, now hospitalized and separated in what appears to be an underground government facility Nic, restrained in a wheel chair, is under interrogation by Dr. Damon, played by Lawrence Fishburn, who embodies the calm, government cult fed strict scientist given authority to run Josef Mengele type experiments.
Escaping the DARPA type government agency and finding his companions becomes the single priority for the apparent sole survivor Nic which ushers in a chase scene that is unexpected, surprising, startling and will resonate.
Having the opportunity to speak with William Eubank during the Press Day for “The Signal,” we discussed many aspects of the making of the film from the first days of the shoot being “under the foot of the giant” as he described working in the shadow of the mega budget film “Transcendence” who was also on filming in Albuquerque.
Working on breakneck speed, “The Signal” was shot according to Eubank over 27 days, in Albuquerque, New Mexico and in Ohio.
Although I hadn’t planned on asking about the budget for “The Signal” Eubank indicated he was “working on a low budget.” So following on that we discussed the big picture he captured on the budget which he indicated was “under 5 million,” which ushered in the second phase of our interview.
Janet Walker: Clearly, the story is compelling. What drew you to this project?
William Eubank: I guess in terms of . . . yes, I don’t know I guess I never really think of myself as having any type of genre or anything like that. I like the idea of having the broad space science fiction provides me. Like you just have this massive world where anything is possible so it sets a stage where you can put a simple character in an extraordinary world or an extraordinary character in a simple world. The best sci-fi provides endless possibilities.
JW: Was the expectation of making the film different than you thought it would be? How?
WE: Always different, no matter how much you know it is about how you respond to the challenges that come up. When you’re on a low budget it’s about the response because you’re never going to find the exact, and you’re always responding to what comes up. And it is up to you to flip that into something better. How if you stay stuck in the rigidity you shut down part of the entire creative part of process.
Eubank’s efforts have certainly generated solid buzz as reviews for the “The Signal” has been so good that a second round of interviews were offered.
From the interview with Olivia Cooke
Having the chance to speak with Olivia Cooke, a relatively newcomer to American audiences, who has for the last two seasons played Emma Decody on A & E’s “Bates Motel, I found her pleasant and grounded for the accolades that she is receiving after only two years of solid work.
We spoke on the challenges of making the film, finding the voice for her character which wasn’t really a stretch as she described it being focusing on a young girl, coming of age in both her career, and her relationship as it takes a dramatic turn leaving her to try and cope with the changes and her personal feelings.
She described the casting process as more of a fun experience than most, as she and Brenton Thwaites (who also gives a very strong performance) were communicating before the final casting decisions and each of them decided they would both do the roles if the other agreed and then “we were in Albuquerque.”
In addition to “The Signal” which opens this week Cooke, whose star is definitely rising, can be seen in “Bates Motel,” and will also be staring in three additional films due out this year including “The Quiet Ones,” the upcoming fall release “Ouija,” which is also a sci-fi thriller and a short, “Ruby’s Skin.”
“The Signal” is a highly suspenseful, contemporary sci-fi thriller and hits theaters June 13, 2014.