The Village (2004)


Thanks for helping me locate my next drinking spot, M. Night!

In rural Pennsylvania (holla!) during 1897 a group of Protestants who live in a small area live happy and peaceful, in an area surrounded by the woods. However, things aren’t always so peachy and keen, due to the fact that in these woods, apparently lie creatures that kill and might possibly invade this little town. Because of this “problem”, the leader of the village (William Hurt) keeps everybody confined and safe with a set of rules that will help them hide-away from these vicious beasts. After awhile, some people begin to lighten-up and realize that there may be something else out there to find, and one of those curious citizens goes by the name of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who also just so happens to be in love with the leader’s blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Yes, it’s been known to many, many people that M. Night Shyamalan is the 21st Century equivalent to a one-trick-pony. He starts off all movies the same, with just the right amount of mystery and wonder, continues to build it all up and up, until, woolah; we have ourselves a twist on our hands. Everybody knows what to expect with an M. Night movie and most of the problems with his movies is that when you see them once, who needs them again. However, “everybody” does not mean yours truly.

Yep, believe it or not, I am one of the very few people who actually will still go-to-bat for Philly boy M. Night. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m representing my home land, or maybe it’s because I actually like watching movies that continue to challenge me with an original story, an original twist, and an original look and feel that reminds me why I love watching movies so much in the first place. I know I’m hyping this one up quite a bit, but don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those “I don’t see why everybody hates this movie” review, it’s just going to be me sticking up for poor, old M. Night. And with his latest-flick coming out this Friday, the dude needs all the love and support he can get.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.
What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What I liked so much about this flick starting off, is that M. Night doesn’t simply spoon-feed us what we need to know about this smallish-community, and he sure as hell doesn’t try to make sure that there are conversations that make it easier for us to figure out. He is simply plopping us into this setting, and just allowing ourselves to get ready and up-to-speed with all of these people and what they are up to. Of course, there’s plenty of mystery surrounding what the community is really like, but you don’t think too much about that as much as you think about just who these people are, what’s their deals, and why are they so freakin’ petrified of going out to “the towns”.

You definitely know that something is up from the get-go, but you’re not exactly sure what. However, even though the characters here tell one another that they are monsters in the woods, monsters that you even see from time-to-time, you can’t be too sure what it is that you are seeing, is in fact real or just a figment of yours, or the character’s imaginations. Throughout the whole duration of the movie, up until the last 10 minutes or so, you know that M. Night is playing a trick on you and feel as if you aren’t easily consumed by being fooled, however, something still has you questioning just what is the truth and what isn’t. M. Night does this in all of his movies, and this time is one of those rare instances where it works and makes this movie better, especially when you see it for a second time.

But then of course, there is always that big question at the top of your mind whenever you finish an M. Night flick: “does the twist really hold up when you compare it to the rest of the flick?” Well, the answer to that is: sort of. See, the movie is all about it’s twist, what it tries to make you believe in, and what is actually the truth, but it never loses focus of it’s characters or it’s sense of place in the world. Sure, you don’t quite know exactly what area of the world M. Night has placed us in, but you know it’s a strange place that could easily be in any type of forest on the face of the planet. Does that rule out every realm of possibility? Nope, not really, but it does get a bit obvious as it goes on from there.

As a whole, I do believe that the twist works and the way that holds up in the story is well-done, but what I do feel like M. Night dropped the ball on was actually handling how the twist was revealed, and what he did to us when we realized what was really going on. Slowly, but surely, odd pieces of evidence begin to shine and you not only realize that this movie is getting at itself somewhere, but M. Night can’t wait to show us either. But because of that frantic-feeling the dude must have had in the pit of his stomach, the twist almost feels too sudden, as if we should have really been hit with that “WTF?!?!?” moment that the dude has lived his career on thus far. It does eventually sink in over time, but not enough time until the full-twist is revealed and then all of a sudden, there’s a jumble of thoughts, ideas, and wonders that the brain is attacked with and as we know; the brain can only handle so much.

So, to answer the question that most people have on their minds after seeing an M. Night flick; I’d say yes, the twist does hold up and work well, but the way that it plays itself out, almost defeats any type of smart or genius that the man had to present. Not sure if I still answered the question I placed up-above or if I’m making any sense, but it worked for me. May not work for you or any other peeps on this Earth, but that’s what movies are made for: discussion, disagreement, and different points-of-views.

But it doesn’t matter where M. Night goes with this funky story, the dude always has time for character-development, as well as giving his cast some time to shine in the spotlight, especially when he isn’t stealing it from them. Joaquin Phoenix is good as the member of the community that wants to rise up and find out what’s really happening outside there in the woods, because he’s able to give us a brave and courageous character, that also has some insecurity-issues as well and isn’t just a born-and-told superhero. The same accent he uses here, that he used in Gladiator was a tad annoying since they sort of came off as the same character, but at least the dude is capable of having us forget about that memorable-role after awhile, and focus on this one. Playing the town “special buddy” is Adrien Brody who is fine with giving this character more emotion and heart than you could suspect, but considering that this movie was filmed and released two years after he came out victorious in what some call the most-stacked ballot for Best Actor in a Leading Role, it does seem like a bit of a disappointment for a dude that’s so talented and obviously can show it.

He heard the train 'a comin'....
He heard the train ‘a comin’….

William Hurt is also very good and charming as the leader of the community, because of the way he’s able to make us believe in all that he says, but yet, also not allow us to fully trust in every word he says. There’s some sexy-chemistry going on between him and Sigourney Weaver’s character, the mother of Lucius, and it’s pretty compelling to see since it gives you further and further clues as to what the hell really is happening underneath the wooden-tiles in the ground.

And last, but damn sure as hell not least is Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy, the blind girl of the community with a heart of fire and passion. Howard has somewhat became a household name by now, but it’s so great to see where she got her start as a head-liner, and show that she was more than just “that girl, who also happened to be Richie Cunningham’s daughter.” It took me awhile to figure out that she was blind, but that didn’t matter after awhile because I could evidently see that this girl had something more to her than just being one of those disabled-peoples, that takes life more for granted now, than most people who seem to have it all. She actually is capable of loving, and to be loved, which gives us more of a reason to feel more for her as time goes on and her adventure begins to get more creepy and scary. Actually, “scary” may not be the right word, but “creepy” definitely is. Yeah, that fits.

Consensus: Even if not all of it adds up to make for a perfect-conclusion to a well-done story, The Village still works, even as a re-watch because of all the hints, clues, ideas, and themes that M. Night gives you to chew on and ponder for a bit, that is, until he shoots himself in the foot by the end once everything is brought out into the open.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chads Ford, PA!!!
So beautiful. So quaint. So Chadds Ford, PA!!!
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33 comments

  1. No, this film totally sucks. It was ruined by that twist ending. It infuriated me to death. M. Night Shyamalan is a fucking hack. This film was proof that his tricks don’t work anymore and he’s gotten worse with every film since then.

  2. Word. I haven’t seen The Village myself. How does it compare to things like Signs and Unbreakable — two films that I absolutely loved, regardless of who was sitting in the director’s chair?

  3. I liked this movie, too. It wasn’t his best (The Sixth Sense and Signs are his best, imo) but it was still worth a watch. The only movies of his I absolutely despised were The Girl In The Water and The Happening.
    Good review! 🙂

  4. Good review, though I’m a fan of neither the film nor the twist. 🙂 I thought the build-up was good, but the the finale was a bit of a let-down. After Earth does look like quite a bit of fun though!

  5. I dont know, I guess a 7/10 is about right. You’re right to call out the cast. They were great here. The “Twist” though… 🙄 “I’d say yes, the twist does hold up and work well” I’d say it was obvious from square one, and even if it was a surprise (which it wasn’t, to me) it was goofy as hell.

    This is where I knew Shyamalan needed to give up on “twists”. The one in Signs was lame, and took the movie down a peg, and here, it was obvious what it was going to be, and thus the movie suffered for it. The rest of the film was actually pretty decent. Maybe the “twist” might have been better if it hadnt been a Shyamalan film. We were all thinking “ok, what’s the ‘twist’ going to be?” from square one during his movies at this point…

    Nice review Dan

    • I see what you’re saying. Maybe if it was someone like me who directed it, people wouldn’t have had no clue but knowing that it was M. Night, people expected it to be happen right from the get-go.

  6. Never bothered with this. Of the M. Night movies I’ve watched the only one I really like is “Unbreakable.” I thought “The Sixth Sense” was OK, but way overrated and “Signs” is just horrible. I will say I probably like “The Last Airbender” more than most, but even that wasn’t great.

  7. I did actually like this movie. It at least kept my interest until the very and end and I wasn’t bored at any point. I did think that the twist at the end was pretty clever. However, I do feel that Shyamalan’s went downhill after this one.

  8. Saw this at the drive-in and I was very disappointed. I saw the twist right from the start…I even told my wife what was going to happen at the beginning of the film and she just snickered. :p

  9. Oh man, I hated this movie so much. It was totally advertised wrong. When I went to go see it, I was honestly expecting a sort of horror movie, and I got a badly constructed “romance” with a crap ending and a bunch of people who are too big of wusses to face reality. What a waste of a talented cast. It’s nice to read a good review of it though! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen one.

  10. I felt like I had to preface this comment by saying that even amongst my friends, I’m the one that likes this movie the least.

    That said, the movie was too much on the nose for me. The Village is a thinly veiled critique of the Bush administration — yellow flags, faceless monsters outside, sending the blind out to save the day, Walker being Bush’s middle name — and while I’m not totally against political undertones, I felt an abundance of pretense on this one.

    I just could not get over sending the blind girl out into the woods. I can barely get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. That and seeing Shyamalan appear in his own movie — I just could not enjoy this one.

  11. This was the last Shyamalan movie I saw. I remember feeling cheated. More than that, however, I began to realize how gimmicky movie-making seldom makes for a good movie. Unless you’re William Castle.

  12. This was the last Shyamalan movie I saw. I felt cheated by it, and it was then I began to realize that gimmicky movie-making seldom makes for a good movie, unless you’re William Castle.

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