The Village

The Village


Reviewed by: David Haviland

The Village is the latest spooky thriller from M Night Shyamalan, the writer/director of The Sixth Sense. The film is a massive disappointment, chiefly because it only really works on second viewing. Shyamalan's previous films were engaging dramas in their own right, without requiring prior knowledge of the twist.

The story concerns an isolated pre-industrial Midwest village, which is run by a committee of elders. The villagers have chosen to move away from the towns and live in a clearing at the centre of a wood, which is inhabited by dangerous creatures. The villagers have a fragile pact with the creatures, whereby they stay out of the forest and the creatures stay out of the village.

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This pact begins to be tested when the younger villagers start to stray into the woods. Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) pleads with the elders to let him travel to the town to buy some medicine, but they refuse. One night, after a wedding, the villagers return to their homes to find their front doors daubed with red, the creatures' colour.

To reveal any more of the plot would spoil it. The film is beautifully shot by the Coens' cinematographer Roger Deakins and Shyamalan creates considerable suspense and tension by withholding all but the briefest glimpses of the creatures. However, despite the slickness of the execution, The Village simply doesn't engage the viewer.

The problem is that the story only makes sense in hindsight. There are a number of different plots, which are largely unrelated, and there's no obvious central character. The film moves between a number of romances, none of which really develop, or engage our interest. The performances are hopelessly mannered, particularly Adrien Brody as the village idiot, and William Hurt's flat delivery quickly becomes irritating.

The Village was rightly panned by the American critics and bad word-of-mouth meant it dropped off disastrously at the box-office after an impressive opening weekend. Shyamalan remains a remarkable filmmaker, but The Village feels like a moment of hubris, hopefully to be rectified at his next outing.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2004
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The secrets and passions of an isolated community, trapped by the fear of mythical beasts.
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Read more The Village reviews:

Josh Morrall *****
Jennie Kermode ****1/2
Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: M Night Shyamalan

Writer: M Night Shyamalan

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, Cherry Jones, Celia Weston, John Christopher Jones, Frank Collison

Year: 2004

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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