The Village (12A)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/08/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

The Village is both atmospheric and beautifully shot, but the end result is deeply disappointing.

Having built his reputation on thrillers that depend on suspense, atmosphere and killer final-reel twists, director M. Night Shyamalan’s attempts to turn himself into a modern-day Hitchcock are so nakedly transparent that it’s actually rather embarrassing.

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if he didn’t also insist on a Hitchcock-like cameo in every movie he makes; his cameo in The Village is so insufferably in-your-face clever-clever and smug that you’ll be very lucky not to escape without vomiting. Luckily for him, however, his cameo appearance is by no means the worst thing in The Village, which is a crushing disappointment on almost every level.

Those We Do Not Speak Of

The film is set in an unspecified time-period, though all the villagers dress and speak as though they’re in a badly-improvised amateur dramatic version of The Crucible. The village itself is cut off from the outside world by virtue of the surrounding woods and no-one dares enter the woods because of hooded creatures referred to as ‘Those We Do Not Speak Of’.

An uneasy truce appears to exist between the creatures and the villagers and everyone seems quite happy about it until Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) attempts to persuade the village elders (led by William Hurt) to let him enter the woods so that he might make contact with other towns.

To complicate matters a little further, Lucius also finds himself in the middle of a love triangle involving cute blind girl Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas ‘daughter of Ron’ Howard) and the village idiot (Adrien Brody). And then there’s the little matter of ‘The Shed We Must Never Go In’…

Extremely Frustrating Experience

The Village is an extremely frustrating experience because parts of it are actually pretty good. For one thing, it’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, who makes strong use of the narrative device of the “bad colour” (red) and the “safe colour” (yellow). However, the plot itself renders such moments meaningless, so that a shot of Ivy in the forest, dressed in yellow and unwittingly surrounded by red flowers, ought to be a terrifying moment, but is instead stripped of any drama or tension.

The performances are another example. Howard is terrific in her debut role and is easily the best thing in the film. However, Shyamalan somehow manages to get career-worst performances out of the likes of Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt and the less said about Brody, the better.

The main problem is that the story itself hinges on a revelation that collapses completely under a moment’s scrutiny and takes the whole movie down with it. The end result is that you leave the cinema feeling manipulated, and not in a good way, as the film raises too many questions it can’t answer.

In short, despite a couple of effective shocks and a strong performance by Bryce Dallas Howard, The Village is a pretentious, poorly thought out, disappointing film and Shyamalan should learn that a sinister, suspenseful atmosphere needs to build to an equally effective climax.

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The Village (12A)
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Content updated: 18/10/2017 23:08

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