The Village


Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by:M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Sigorney Weaver, Adrien Brody, Brendan Gleeson
Released: September 2, 2004
Grade: B-

If you don’t know young director M. Night Shyamalan by name, you will most likely know him by reputation.  He burst from obscurity in 1999 with one of the highest grossing movies of all time, The Sixth Sense, and he followed that with 2000’s Unbreakable (starring Bruce Willis) and 2002’s Signs (starring Mel Gibson).  His films are distinct in that he tries to keep us on guard and on our toes.  Things are rarely as they appear to be and you ought to be paying very close attention…

The Village follows this trend.  It’s certainly an intriguing film but is it an interesting film?  I’m not so sure.  I am not at liberty to divulge the film’s secrets but looking back on it, I found the story didn’t grasp me in the way Shyamalan’s previous three films did.  Box-office numbers from the U.S. suggest I may be in the majority with this assessment.  It’s second weekend, the film dropped a whopping 67.5% in business which could only suggest very bad word of mouth.

The opening introduces us to a quiet community in a small American village.  This village is tucked away in a forest clearing and since their arrival many years ago, none of the townsfolk have ventured back into the world they once left.  You see, there are dangerous “creatures” in the woods with whom a truce has been reached.  They do not come into the village and in return, the townsfolk do not enter the woods.

This may sound rather horrible but in fact, the townsfolk and very happy and always peaceful.  There’s no need for money, everyone pulls their weight, and the go about their serine lives with the utmost dignity.  Most are satisfied with their surroundings but there are some who wonder what is beyond the forbidden woods.  One in particular wants to take on these creatures and embark on a journey to a world he can only imagine…

That’s all I’m prepared to say on the plot but the cast is another story.  It’s of the highest quality and includes William Hurt, Signorney Weaver, Adrien Brody, Joaquin Phoenix and Brendan Gleeson.  The star of the film is newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard who plays a blind girl with a remarkable foresight.  Her performance would be the stand out of the film.

From the director’s chair, Shyamalan does a strong job.  He has a knack for finding fresh camera angles and I like his variations in film editing.  Sometimes he’s quickly cutting back and forth between shots but at other times, he’ll hold on the same camera for a long time.  From the writer’s desk however, Shyamalan doesn’t impress.  It’s a lacklustre story and the film’s finale is drawn out and predictable.  As good a filmmaker as he is though, I won’t hold it against him.

The Village is sure to provide ample post-movie conversation but I don’t believe it’s a film you’ll be talking about much longer after that.