The Village

"OK"

The Village Review


Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan is well aware that many fans now go into his spine-tingling thrillers hoping to out-smart him, dissecting every scene for advance clues to his celebrated plot twists. In "The Village," he plays into this expectation, leaving trace insinuations everywhere, most of which provide the film with curious touches of character while leading viewers with over-active imaginations in completely the wrong direction.

One actor in this latest unnerving endeavor is most blessed by this technique (although not necessarily a source of false leads herself). The delicate, expressively supple Bryce Dallas Howard (the offspring of director Ron Howard) makes a mesmerizing debut as young woman with a secret, supernatural gift for seeing people's auras -- but little else.

She plays freckled, crimson-haired Ivy, the plucky, spirited, near-blind, daughter of the head elder (William Hurt) in a 19th-century community strangely and willfully content in the isolation forced upon its tiny populace by petrifying mythical creatures that haunt the surrounding woods.

Ivy becomes the film's emotional touchstone when chaos erupts around her in an early scene: As the creatures breach the village's meadow perimeter (forever guarded by fires and a watchtower), sending people scurrying for the modest protection of their locked cellars, Ivy stands frozen in a doorway, her stalwart but fragile hand outstretched in the faith that it will be soon find the sturdy grip of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), the emotionally reticent but selfless and fearless young man who has always come to her rescue.

Howard's preternatural ability to instill such moments with a flood of visceral sensations is perfectly coupled with Shyamalan's gift for chills as the story unfolds in sometimes startling ways. Ivy's demonstrable love for Lucius sets in motion a tragedy that leads to a terrible secret revealed, a daring infringement into the forest, and the chance of a discovery that could shatter the village's sheltered existence.

More than that I cannot divulge without giving away some of the picture's surprises. But while Shyamalan shows a mastery of mood and metaphor (the village's idyllic nature being maintained in part by fear has parallels to both Orwellian themes and modern politics), without the distraction of his tension-sustaining twists -- and without Howard breathing such gripping empathy into Ivy -- "The Village" would seem overly simplistic and perhaps a little silly.

Most of the characters here lack the depth Shyamalan has demonstrated in his previous work, and the great cast -- including Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, Cherry Jones, Celia Weston and Adrien Brody (in a pivotal role as the village idiot) -- visibly struggle to stretch their parts into three dimensions. Some of them also seem to struggle with their stilted period dialogue, and over-articulate phrases like "Those We Don't Speak Of" (the creatures, which they do speak of, all the time) and "The Old Shed That Is Not To Be Used."

Shyamalan makes some unsophisticated choices in his use of symbolism (every house contains a locked box of secrets from the elders' pasts) and excessive slow-motion. One devastatingly poor decision in the editing room leads to the film's climactic revelation being undermined when the director cuts away to another scene, mapping out the larger meaning of the impending surprise as if explaining it to a child. And there are large passages of the film that feel as if Shyamalan is just killing time before The Big Twist.

But even if "The Village" is one of his lesser works that, like 2002's "Signs," doesn't stick to the ribs, it still gets the wheels spinning in one's mind, because Shyamalan is one writer-director who never does anything without a reason -- even if he sometimes makes mistakes. So could that stilted dialogue delivery be intentional? Is it possible that the effects used to create the creatures -- while quite eerie with their razor-sharp bony fingers and clusters of spinal spires tearing through the backs of their red robes -- seem slightly ersatz on purpose?

One thing is for sure: Shyamalan can still tie knots in your stomach at will, sometimes with a single line of whispered dialogue.

"Ivy," says the girl's father when the village tragedy leads him to secretly reveal to her what lies in that forbidden shed, "do your very best not to scream..."



The Village

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th July 2004

Box Office USA: $114.2M

Box Office Worldwide: $256.7M

Budget: $71.7M

Distributed by: Buena Vista

Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 89 Rotten: 117

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Ivy Walker, as Lucius Hunt, as Noah Percy, as Edward Walker, as Alice Hunt, as August Nicholson, as Mrs. Clack, as Vivian Percy, John Christopher Jones as Robert Percy, as Victor, as Tabitha Walker, as Kitty Walker, as Christop Crane, as Jamison, as Finton Coin

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.