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Originally published Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 3:05 PM

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‘The Signal’: Twisty sci-fi thriller heads down a spooky road

A 2.5-star movie review of “The Signal,” a well-cast science-fiction thriller about college students distracted by a hacker. Laurence Fishburne and Brenton Thwaites star.


Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review ★★½  

‘The Signal,’ with Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp. Directed by William Eubank, from a screenplay by Eubank, Carlyle Eubank and David Frigerio. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence and language. Several theaters.

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A relatively unknown but charismatic Australian actor, Brenton Thwaites, could become a household name by the time all of his recent work arrives on cable.

A bit of a chameleon but as photogenic and direct as the late Paul Walker, he plays Prince Philip in Disney’s “Maleficent” and has leading roles in the horror film “Oculus” and the soon-to-be-released Meryl Streep/Jeff Bridges drama “The Giver.” On television, he starred in a remake of “The Blue Lagoon.”

In the twisty, initially engaging science-fiction entry “The Signal,” Thwaites is effectively cast as a troubled college student who appears to be losing his girlfriend (Olivia Cooke). At the same time, he sides with his nerdy best friend (Beau Knapp) to follow a trail suggested by a hacker.

The picture starts out as a scenic road movie, turns into a haunted-house thriller (imaginatively set in and under the desert) and eventually clicks as a shape-shifting vehicle for Laurence Fishburne. The Oscar-nominated actor gets to try on various disguises, among them a doltish bureaucrat and a darkish variation on the wizard of Oz.

It’s fun while it lasts, though it feels less like a completed movie than a demonstration of director William Eubank’s spooky ability to shift gears and string genres together.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com



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