Classic Film Review: The Village (2004)

‘Shyamalan probably felt that he owed his fans a twist ending […] and I feel that […] ruined The Village

Success or Failure: M. Night Shyamalan

The Village, 2004

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson

 

After three films with a supernatural theme (children seeing dead people, unbreakable men and aliens) fans were no doubt excited (myself included at the time) about this monster movie by M. Night Shyamalan set in a remote village during the late 19th-century. So what happens when the fans find out it’s actually a period-romance rather than a monster movie? People hate it. In this village we are introduced to a number of residents, all of whom are afraid of the monster in the woods, but there’s an agreement that the monster never walks into their village, nor do they tread among the forest, forcing them to remain in isolation in their little town. However ‘Those [they] don’t speak of’, the official title given to the monsters in the woods, seem to be encroaching on their village, with animal carcases left lying around every morning. Soon Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix, Signs) gets hurt and it forces Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) to venture out into the forest, despite the fact she’s blind, to retrieve medicine from a neighbouring town.

One of the positives I will issue this film is the fact that I never quite knew who the main protagonist was (a trick used brilliantly in Psycho), as Joaquin Phoenix seemed to step up from back-up to Mel Gibson in Signs to starring in his own film, but he’s soon injured giving a debuting Bryce Dallas Howard the limelight. It’s quite an intriguing tactic and one I feel pays off. The cast is also brilliantly assembled; with stellar names such as Sigourney Weaver and Brendan Gleeson playing some of the elders of the village. The stellar names and the trailers all came together to create such a hype for this film, hype which fuelled the hatred upon the twist.

The Village, 2

The twist, which I won’t spoil, is awfully delivered (and almost backwardly told) and then the plausibility of it all becomes questionable, with M. Night Shyamalan himself starring in the final scene basically explaining all the unanswered questions to the viewer just in case you didn’t fully understand the twist (which was frustrating). The poor way of executing the twist (which isn’t easy without spoiling it) comes from a lengthy reveal to Ivy the secret before Ivy encounters a scene which discredits what she has been told. It makes for a slightly confusing (and not in a good way) moment with a glimmer of hope that maybe the twist was a lie and there is another twist, but sadly it never came. Having her encounter before the twist reveal would have been more dramatic but knowing what she knows means her reactions to the encounter seem strange. Also, why have they sent a blind girl to get it? She has a sister (played by Judy Greer who played a sister character to Bryce Dallas Howard over a decade later in Jurassic World) who could have gone with her (Kitty (Judy Greer, The 15:17 to Paris) is shown to have a romantic interest in Lucius at the start before it’s revealed he has feelings for her sister), more so as the two men they sent with her (who don’t know the twist) soon chicken out and leave a helpless blind girl to fend for herself through a forest. Crazy monsters or not, being blind in a woodland area isn’t an easy chore to accomplish.

Shyamalan probably felt that he owed his fans a twist ending (due to the success of them in his previous three films) and I feel that twist ending ruined The Village. While it sounds like a decent idea on paper, in execution it took away the only redeeming qualities of this film, and, as noted, turned a monster movie, that was billed as a monster movie, into a romantic period drama. The acting is fine, the score is great, some of the visuals are really good (if there’s a few strange camera shots): the film is nicely put together but it feels ruined by the need to have that all important twist ending.

 

Personal: * *     Acting: * * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ½

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