THE FIRST SIGN YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN. THE SECOND SIGN YOU CAN’T IGNORE. THE THIRD SIGN YOU WON’T BELIEVE.
Pennsylvania farmer Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) discovers huge circles in his corn field; similar events are taking place all over the world and mankind soon learns that aliens are on their way. Another fantastical concept from M. Night Shyamalan, but this story actually works as almost a chamber piece; you’ve got few characters, sparse sets and not really any extravagant special effects. The alien invasion is presented as something God has sent to Gibson’s retired priest to show him that there is a purpose to everything after all. The result is a moving and exciting film that avoids overly sentimental traps. The score is brilliantly Bernard Herrmann-esque.
2002-U.S. 106 min. Color. Produced by Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Music: James Newton Howard. Cast: Mel Gibson (Graham Hess), Joaquin Phoenix (Merrill Hess), Cherry Jones (Caroline Paski), Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Kalember. Cameo: M. Night Shyamalan.
Last word: “I like that with ghosts, and comic books, and with alien invasions, it’s so steeped with stereotypes that if [the characters] hear a quirky theory about it from a neighbor or something, it’s fun. Because the neighbor can spout all the stupid stuff you’ve ever heard about alien invasions, and your smart characters are like, ‘Well, this is ridiculous. Come on – this guy’s obviously lost his mind.’ But now you’ve got all that information – that B-film information – but it came through from unreliable sources in the movie … but those guys all turn out to be right. So you basically drop legitimate, grounded characters into a B-movie – and how would they react? […] And the main characters – you know, the Joaquins, the Mels and all these guys – they all have the knowledge we have, which is, ‘All these stupid alien movies – this is ridiculous. This isn’t really happening. This is obviously some farce.'” (Shyamalan, In Focus)