Signs Of Good Writing

I managed to catch a screening of the movie Signs this weekend, and it has got to be the best movie I’ve seen in quite a while. M. Night Shyamalan is quite possibly the most gifted American filmmaker since Alfred Hitchcock. Signs is a masterwork that belongs with Psycho, North By Northwest, and even Shyamalan’s earlier The Sixth Sense as some of the genre’s best.

I won’t spoil any of the plot, but there are moments that are funny, touching, and moments that will frighten the living crap out of you, sometimes all in a row. Not only is it an effective and frightening work of suspense, but the emotions of the film always ring true. The focus of this movie is unique for what kind of story i is, but that kind of intimacy lets Shyamalan explore issues of faith and family in a way that other films like it never even touch. However, what really impresses me about the movie is that Shyamalan follows Chekov’s Rule of Playwriting to the letter – if you show a gun in the first act, it must be fired before the fourth, else there’s no reason to show it. In this movie, every little bit has meaning, and all of it becomes relevant in the end. It’s that kind of tight, well-executed writing that makes Signs such a great film. With all the mindless summer popcorn movies that usually come out at this time, Signs is a rare treat: a Hollywood film that doesn’t insult the intelligence of it’s audience.

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