The Village

The Village


Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

The Village is about (shockingly) a village surrounded by an ominous wood, in which hide beasts so hideous they are named by the villagers "Those We Do Not Speak Of". The village is lead by a group of elders, most importantly, Edward Walker (William Hurt), who are forced to make a life or death decision when Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) requests to pass through the woods in order to gather vital medicines from the other towns.

With the $60million budget that he had for this film, M Night Shyamalan has created a very convincing set-up, concentrating on an invisible mise-en-scene that won't distract you from the thorough character interaction he takes you through. The final altercation between Lucius and Noah (Adrien Brody) is carefully shot as to deliver one of the most awe inspiring scenes I have ever witnessed, in terms of the event that transpires between them (I'm being careful not to give anything away, but it's hard, since this is a scene that stays with you).

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The pace of the film only seems slow because of Shyamalan's unique style of filmmaking, born from the Hitchcockian school of structure. He intercepts his developing and beautifully humane relationships with terrifying moments of panic. The contrast is so stark that the quiet scenes are filled with a underlying tension which grips you to rather mundane dialogue. The suspense builds throughout the film, never allowing the audience to rest.

Bryce Dallas Howard is excellent as the blind Ivy Walker. Obviously, I wasn't surprised at her stellar performance since she has been in such high priority parts as the Surprised Who in The Grinch and an uncredited role in father Ron Howard's Apollo 13. The Village has been loosely based on Wuthering Heights (and King Kong) and Ivy is as passionate as the novel, although in a more subdued manner.

Shyamalan said he did not even need to see Howard in an audition to know that she was right for Ivy. He cast her after seeing her on stage in Tartuffe by Moliere and his selection is faultless. She is passionate and honest and has a natural quality about her that is very much at home in The Village environment.

Phoenix is not acting that much differently from previous performances (check out his cool performance in 8mm, with Nicolas Cage). His acting is more understated in style. He doesn't change his demeanour, or countenance, but does change small details that make each character unique. Here, he moves very sluggishly at times, walking with a lack of haste, which makes the moments when he does run even more exciting. If Phoenix is running, you know it's got to be bad.

I was wary of Brody when I first saw him, thinking: "What's an Oscar winner like you doing in a film like this?" I figured he would only be taking leading roles from now on, but he's proved he still has the ability to support, with as much flare as he can lead. It is never easy to play a character with a mental affliction, but he handles the intrusive close ups with ease.

Hurt and Sigourney Weaver are both on form, but have the show stolen from them by the younger actors. Weaver has little time to shine and does well in the small role she's been given, but Hurt just doesn't quite grasp the thrilling intensity of what lies before him.

The twist is not as sudden as it was in The Sixth Sense, or Unbreakable. Instead, it is a gradual path of realisation, which starts two thirds of the way through, and for your money, you are getting three Shyamalan twists for the price of one. And at no point does it seem irritating. If you find yourself disappointed with the plot swerves, then you need to question whether you are angry only because you have been so convincingly duped.

The Village is gentle, touching, amusing, terrifying, shocking and dramatic all rolled up into a beautifully shot and skilfully rendered film, performed perfectly and stamped with the Shyamalan seal of superiority. If you thought he had to lose it by now, you were wrong.

The Village is utterly victorious.

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:

Jennie Kermode ****1/2
Angus Wolfe Murray ****
David Haviland **

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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