Review: The Village

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  July 30, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense is still revered as one of the greatest thriller classics of the modern era. It changed the way we view thriller films today.

In his follow-ups to his other-worldly The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan proposed a new way of looking at superheroes in Unbreakable and deduced alien invasions to paranoia in Signs. For most movie-goers, it is still a debate to which of these films they like better.

Now with The Village, Shyamalan has once more created a stir, but like his last two entries it will be up to audiences to believe or condone the hype.

The Village focuses on the townsfolk of the secluded village of Covington, Pennsylvania who live in fear of creatures who inhabit the woods surrounding their town. The village patriarch and a member of the village counsel, Edward Walker (William Hurt) becomes concerned when both of his young daughters fall for the quiet challenging demeanor of Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix).

Lucius wants nothing more than to challenge the village law of never entering the woods. He believes that the village needs medicines and supplies that don't grow rampant around the village. He wants to journey into the woods but the village counsel is dead against it.

Lucius's childhood sweetheart, Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), is the youngest daughter of Edward Walker and is blind. Ivy admires Lucius and his curiosity of what goes on in the woods.

When a freak accident occurs, the village counsel and Edward Walker are forced to look past the creatures and the woods for help. It is that desperate act that is destined to change the face of Covington forever.

Shyamalan's Village reminded me a lot of films like 1996's The Crucible and the 1995's Scarlet Letter, but only in style, tone, and presentation " where people live in fear and that one solitary act can change the people. I always felt confused and frustrated when watching films like these because it is always hard to get into the mindset of a person imprisoned in that way of thinking.

I also was confused as to why the townspeople wouldn't rise up and defend their village instead of hiding in cellars and running away scared. How can mass paranoia and fear so cripple these people?

I guess if you buy into Shyamalan's townspeople and their way of life than this film is sure to delight and spook you. But if you were like me and didn't, then it may not be too difficult to see what Shyamalan has up his sleeve.

The film's shocks, twists, and turns are interesting, but I found them to be very predictable. I almost felt that the script and story was more like a television movie or student film. If it wasn't for Shyamalan's crisp and pinpointed direction and the acting from some of the film's leads, the whole project would have felt very amateur.

One of the bright spots of this film is the performance of newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of filmmaker Ron Howard. Her performance alone was one of the reasons why I kept going along with the film as long as I did, even though I had figured it out before the end of the first act.

Howard is beautiful, approachable, and vulnerable, but strong and resourceful in every scene she is in. I almost wish that in some of the more critical scenes with her that we were able to be more a part of the thrills and chills she experiences.

I also loved the performance from William Hurt, who once more shows he is still one of the best actors working today. What is with this man? He disappears for years and then always comes back more brilliant than the last time we saw him. We can't forget this man.

The Village is a concept that if you buy into it from the opening sequence then you are sure to enjoy it. But if you don't, it is a long bumpy ride out of the village. (2.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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