The Village (2004)

The Village was the first M. Night Shyamalan movie I’ve seen in a while. It’s been a few years since I saw Unbreakable, and even longer since the Sixth Sense, so I tried to enter the movie with a fresh sense of judgment.

Unfortunately for me, popular culture has long revealed the twist ending of this movie, so it’s very likely that the knowledge of the twist ahead of time impacted my feelings toward the movie. On that note, I’m not going to restrain from spoilers in the review, so

***IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW.***

Still, I can’t say for certain that I wouldn’t have figured it out before the reveal anyway. Onward with the review.

The Village is a movie that takes its time as it explores small town life in a town supposedly in the late 19th century. The titular village is plagued by hidden and unnamed creatures that reside in the forest and keep the villagers to their little town. Joaquin Pheonix plays an emergingly rebellious young man who questions the insular doctrine that the town elders have established.

Pheonix is great, and probably the highlight of the film. His subdued performance makes you root for him as he stands up and tries to think critically about his situation, and his humbleness only solidifies his likability. The most tragic part of this movie is that the last third removes him almost entirely, and focuses instead on the leading lady played by newcomer (and Ron Howard’s daughter) Dallas Bryce Howard.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that Howard was good in her role, but I must respectfully disagree. Her delivery and mannerisms got a bit on my nerves, and I was pretty upset that she rose to the focal point of the movie by the end. It’s not that she was horrible, I think I just disagreed with the acting choices she made. I’m sure I could grow to like her if I examine her in other roles, but her interpretation of this character didn’t settle with me.

Her father similarly annoyed me. William Hurt was easily the weakest link of this movie for me. His line deliveries sounded so unnatural and awkward, and he only brought more unpleasantness to an already unsympathetic character.

Shyamalan’s direction in this movie is mixed. On the one hand, I feel as though he misuses slow-motion. The first time he uses it is when the creatures come into the town and Howard’s character has the door open and her hand outstretched. This scene is very tense, and I was enjoying the suspense a lot, but then it moved into slow-motion and broke all of the excitement that I had for it. On the other hand, there are some fantastic sequences and shots. One that stands out in particular is when Adrien Brody stabs Pheonix. It’s the most beautifully tragic and silent stabbing I’ve ever seen, and I was really impressed by it.

But the great acting and the occasional directorial goodness is all brought down by the end of the movie. The last forty minutes of this movie ruin any interest it had built up for me at all. The twists are uninspired and cliche, and the reveals are very anticlimactic. When I heard that the Village was actually in modern day, I thought it was an awesome idea, but after seeing the execution, I was severely disappointed in how Shyamalan decided to reveal this.

Then he decides to try to cover his tracks in depth by having an officer, played by Shyamalan himself, explaining everything and even offering an explanation for the lack of planes flying by. It’s like he doesn’t trust his audience to figure anything out on their own, and it really belittles the entire twist. Plus, I have serious problems with films like this, that show the creatures clearly as CGI-created monsters, and then later tries to say they were just people in rubber masks. That’s bullshit, and it’s insulting to audiences to show them one thing and then later say it’s another.

And also, I don’t think a blind chick could have killed anyone in the woods like that, even if they were mentally handicapped. The entire last third of this movie had me groaning and rolling my eyes, and made me join the leagues of other critics who claim that Shyamalan is a one-trick pony who has been failing that trick as of late.

Final rating: 4/10

–James A. Janisse

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