Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deconstructing The Village; Deleted
scenes (11:30); Bryce's Diary. M. Night's Home Movie; Production
M NIGHT Shyamalan proves himself to be the master of sustained
suspense with his latest pot-boiler, The Village, a shrewd and
downright creepy affair that uses the power of the viewer’s
imagination as its greatest weapon.
The director has long been compared to a modern-day Hitchcock
and The Village furthers the suspicion that he is without equal,
in the modern era, in terms of his ability to make you feel uneasy
while enjoying yourself all at the same time.
Like Signs before it, The Village thrives on the unknown. It’s
not so much what you see on-screen, but that which you don’t.
Rather like being told to go to bed, for fear of the bogey-man
getting you, the film flirts with your sub-conscious, playing
up to what you think might happen, and making a mockery of modern
cinema’s desire to show everything in all its graphic glory.
The village of the title is a seemingly picture-perfect community,
completely isolated and self-supporting. Yet its idyllic existence
is over-shadowed by the constant threat posed by the surrounding
woods, which is said to be home to mythical creatures.
For years, an uneasy alliance has existed. If the villagers keep
out of the woods, the creatures will not enter their boundary.
But when a headstrong young man resolves to venture into the
unknown, in a bid to find medical supplies for the village, his
boldness threatens to shatter the safety of the commune and change
To reveal any more of the plot would be to remove the fun of
going to see it, especially since critics have been asked to refrain
from giving away any ‘spoilers’. But if the premise
intrigues you, then hurry along to the multiplex, before somebody
‘clever’ decides to break the silence.
What is worth noting, however, is that fans of Shyamalan ought
not to be disappointed. This is the sort of movie that continues
to get better the longer you think about it, even if some of the
twists may seem disappointing at the time.
For just as Signs
was more a film about faith and one man’s journey of re-discovery,
which came wrapped around an alien invasion conceit, then likewise
The Village is not simply a movie about mystical beings and the
threat they pose to the community.
For all of Shyamalan’s trickery - both visual and imagined
- the film has to work on an emotional level, and does so with
aplomb. And it is little wonder, given his penchant for story-telling,
that the director is able to attract such a strong ensemble cast.
The Village boasts two Oscar-winners, in William Hurt and Adrien
Brody, and two nominees, in Joaquin Phoenix and Sigourney Weaver,
as well as a revelatory introductory performance from Ron Howard’s
daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, who steals the show.
Phoenix is the brave villager in question, whose decision to
confront his fears and break the boundaries triggers the events
which propel the movie, while Howard, as his blind love-interest,
is utterly compelling as the heroine of the piece.
Brody, as the village idiot, appears to be having fun, while
Hurt, Weaver and Brendan Gleeson make the most of their well-rounded
characters, bringing some added gravitas to proceedings, while
there is also the obligatory cameo from Shyamalan, himself, to
keep an eye out for.
The look of the film is also first-rate, while the director’s
use of sound is truly eerie and occasionally terrifying, playing
to just about all of the viewers’ senses, and toying with
One set-piece, in particular, is likely to leave you gasping
for breath, while the sense of fear that permeates throughout
translates cleverly to its audience.
Some viewers may feel cheated by some of the revelations, while
the popcorn crowd may get a little fidgety (as things take time
to unfold), but for those with an appreciation of classic story-telling,
quality acting and nerve-shredding suspense, this offers a virtual
tour-de-force in all three.
Thoughtful, unnerving and emotional to boot, The Village confirms
Shyamalan’s status as one of modern cinema’s richest
talents. If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for
a pleasant surprise.