Saturday, August 21, 2004

Movie Review (The Village)...

The Village

Since 1999’s ‘The Sixth Sense’, the words “written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan” have been associated with high quality storytelling, supernatural thrills and of course the, by now obligatory, twist ending. For his fourth feature film, he has not strayed too far away from the formula that made his name. The Village has had the misfortune of being marketed as a straight up horror film, when it would have perhaps been a wiser decision to promote it as what it is; a period set gothic romance with just a hint of horror.

Ivy, played magnificently by Bryce Dallas Howard, is a blind girl living within a small rural community, who falls for the quiet but curious, Lucious (Joaquin Phoenix). As a rule, the villagers must not venture past the border separating them from Covington woods, as the woods do not belong to them. In the woods lurks a race of mythical creatures, known only as “those we do not speak of” with whom the villagers have forged a truce. In exchange for not entering the woods, the people of the village will come to no harm. Of course, rules are made to be broken, and when Lucious decides to test the boundaries of this strange truce, the creatures respond accordingly.

Shyamalans direction is faultless here. A master of tension, he plays with the audiences pre-conceived notions of what to expect. Every period detail is meticulously recreated and beautifully photographed, while the performances he elicits from both the unknown newcomer Bryce Howard and experienced Oscar winner Adrien Brody, only compounds the fact that Shyamalan is truly an actor’s director. After all, this is the director who managed to coax not one, but two subtly brilliant performances from the usually one note Bruce Willis, in both ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Unbreakable’. Add to that Haley Joel Osment as the kid in ‘The Sixth Sense’ and Mel Gibson’s career best turn in ‘Signs’ and one may start to see a pattern developing.

Wiliam Hurt and Sigourney Weaver provide support, as two of the elders in charge of the self-sufficient village, and while not given a great deal to do, bring a much needed gravitas to their respective roles. All in all a hugely successful movie, masterfully executed and brilliantly performed, 'The Village' is highly recommended viewing.

4 out of 5