Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:
minor plot points revealed!
People either love or hate the films of director M. Night Shyamalan. I am definitely part of the group that loves them. Some believe his debut film The Sixth Sense, with it's "one-trick pony" (James Berardinelli Reel Reviews) twist was a cheap stunt. These people were either:
Whatever the reason, these people are idiots so who cares what they think. As far as I'm concerned, The Sixth Sense was one of the most brilliant films of the 90's. It was also one of the most impressive directorial debuts since Orson Wells made Citizen Kane. M. Night Shyamalan is the super-cool Rod Serling of this age and his craftsmanship is flawless.
That said, I didn't love The Village as much as I thought I would.
This is the tale of a late-19th century village named Covington. The time period is set at the start of the film by a fresh grave inscribed 1897. The community is happy but isolated. They are a self-sustaining Amish-type group that not only stays within it's boundaries but is forced to do so by the monsters (Those We Don't Speak Of) that supposedly lurk in the woods around the perimeter. Problems arise when one of the community members is injured and the medicine to help him needs to be recovered from one of the "towns" outside the village.
I thought about divulging the big twists in this review because I was very disappointed and felt I needed to explain why I didn't enjoy them. However, because Shyamalan's films tend to be reliant on their secret surprises it wouldn't be fair to reveal them here. I will say this - I sort of guessed the twist without reading anything about the film in advance.
We all guess the ending to a film once in a while but that doesn't, for me, necessarily diminish the experience. Here are some good points about the film.
The cinematography is creepy and glorious. It is a very cool-looking film. Shyamalan also knows how to create atmosphere and suspense. The couple of scares in the film are truly scary but I was expecting more of them. The music score is also haunting and does well to set the mood.
The actors all do a great job but their dialogue takes a while to get used to. They use an accent that is kind of an approximation of "old-timey" but also seems forced. This is perhaps intentional because it will play a part in the big twist. William Hurt is great as town leader Edward Walker. Hurt has a gravity about him that lets you believe in him. Sigourney Weaver is one of the town elders and mother to the quiet, loyal and brave Lucius Hunt played by Joaquin Phoenix. Weaver is not really used much in the film but Phoenix is awesome. Adrien Brody is Noah, the village idiot. He is a seemingly gentle retarded guy who sometimes lashes out. Brody does a great job as well with a role that is pivotal but only contains about 5 lines of dialogue. Brendan Gleeson ( The dad in 28 Days Later) is also good as one of the other town elders who lost a young son at the beginning of the film. And finally, Bryce Dallas Howard (Daughter of Ron "Opie-Cunningham" Howard) is awesome in her big feature debut as Ivy Walker, blind daughter of Hurt's town leader. Her performance is definitely the show stealer of the film.
One last thing that I will mention is that favorable reviews of the film have seen it as a metaphor for our own closed border paranoia as of late. Our fear of threats originating outside our country and sometimes from within. I would love to say that I saw this allegory as well but honestly I didn't.
The Village is just an OK film. I would call it the weakest of the Shyamalan 4. It's probably not worth seeing in the theater and I would probably not even recommend renting it but if it comes on HBO or regular TV one day give it a watch and see for yourself. If you don't spend any money to see it you may be able to enjoy it.