First Signal Image

The science-fiction drama First Signal explores the impact of a signal intercepted by a top-secret Space Command satellite that appears to have originated from a point one million miles out from Earth, where nothing human-made exists that could generate such a signal. The military monitors the signal and believes it is coming from a space-borne observation platform of extraterrestrial origin and that we are being watched. The Space Command also figures out that the alien platform is also used to conduct air traffic control operations for alien ships flying in Earth airspace. Since it was kept clandestine, they assume the aliens have hostile intentions.

At the G7 summit, U.S. President Colton (Wendy Hartman) is pulled away from the conference to be given an emergency briefing on the situation. There is some back and forth about security clearances until General John Reager (Paul Noonan) explains that a U.S. spy spacecraft was sent to the origin of the signal. Still, as soon as it came into range, the observation platform departed quickly, using a powerful propulsion drive with performance abilities unknown to human technology. Also, curiously, the signal that was transmitted was carried on x-ray frequencies, not used for communications by human cultures.

“…the alien platform is also used to conduct air traffic control operations for alien ships flying in Earth airspace.”

Conflict in the briefing room erupts between Reager and the president’s science advisor, Cedric Yonah (Conor Timmis), who protests a martial response to the discovery of aliens among us, wanting first to assess their intention. Yonah invokes the specter of Nazi Germany when he asks Reager why he wants to attack before he understands the visitors. There are many moments in the script like this, where historical events or people are referenced to paint a picture of the situation quickly.

Writer-director Mark Lund has done some interesting extrapolation into the operations of Space Command, including inventing a new level of clearance called Cosmic Top Secret. The film’s title, First Signal, is a variation on the classic sci-fi trope of “first contact” with an extraterrestrial culture. The filmmaker is well-versed in scientific knowledge and the science-fiction literary history around extraterrestrial visitations, which comes through clearly in the film.

The story is solid, and the premise is fascinating, though there is one minor flaw in the logic. A tidbit of the plot hinges on a signal sent from a terrestrial radio telescope. However, radio telescopes don’t generate signals. They only receive them. It’s a minor nitpick for nerds to find and point out in reviews.

Lund has created an interesting no-budget film in First Signal. He gets around his limited resources by placing his cast in a conference room, a couple of public locations, and an open field, then filling in the rest with stock footage and a single effects shot. He also pulled together a trailer for his film that includes more effects. For a micro-budget effort, this is an impressive accomplishment.

First Signal (2021)

Directed and Written: Mark Lund

Starring: Paul Noonan, Conor Timmis, Wendy Hartman, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

First Signal Image

"…an impressive accomplishment."

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