SIGNS IS a daring bait-and-switch, in which director M. Night Shyamalan seems to promise his audience a movie about aliens and gives us a movie about God, instead. The film, which stars Mel Gibson as an Episcopal priest who has lost his faith following the tragic death of his wife, is about the need to believe that there is someone out there watching over us, and not just some empty meaningless void, and the film cannily plays with — and rejects — the idea that aliens can fulfill this need.
The film begins with a shot of a hand holding a Polaroid; in the picture, and behind it, we see what looks like a dead body, lying against a blood-splattered wall. Then the hand shakes the picture, and we realize the image is fading to white — time is going backwards. Then, sure enough, the blank Polaroid is sucked back into a camera, the blood runs back towards the body from which it came, a gun jumps off the ground into the photographer’s hand, and the body springs to life, the victim having just enough time to shout something before the scene comes to an abrupt end.