Written and Directed by
M. Night Shyamalan
Running Time: 1:48
for a scene of violence
and frightening situations.
As I left The Village, I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. I enjoyed the actors, I liked the mood, I didn't see the ending coming, but the dialogue was very wooden and the movie was rather slow. But after thinking about it, I've decided I enjoyed the film.
Deep in the woods a group of families live in solitude. Except for the fact that their little village is surrounded by a group of creatures who kill anyone that enters their domain. The villagers and the creatures have come to a truce; we won't go into your woods, you won't come into our village. When a young boy dies because of illness, Lucius Hunt wants permission from the town elders to go through the woods and go to the nearest town to get medicine. He is denied, but enters the woods one night to prove a point. The creatures are not happy and bad thing start to happen in the village. Then Lucius's new fiancÚ, the blind Ivy, asks to also go through the woods to get medicine. She is allowed to go, which leads to a shocking conclusion about the truth behind The Village.
After The Sixth Sense, everytime you go into an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you go in looking for a surprise or two. Unbreakable didn't have a 180 degree twist like The Sixth Sense, but the realization that occurred was different. Signs didn't really have a twist either, it was just a simple alien encounter film. But after the success of The Sixth Sense, none of that matters anymore. The audience goes in expecting to be surprised, so you're constantly on the lookout. With The Village, Shyamalan leads you down the path, and just when you think you've got it all figured out, he smacks you on the head and says, I don't think so cowboy.
I'll try and keep this part of the review spoiler-free. I loved the acting in the film. It was all very sincere and conservative, which was fitting for a movie taking place in the late 1800s. At its heart, the movie was a love story between Lucius and Ivy. He has always loved her, but was never sure how to act. She was blind, but a tomboy, who also loved him. Their relationship however was burdened by outside forces. Her sister also loved Lucius, and there was a strange boy named Noah who loved Ivy. Trying to keep everyone happy lead to everyone being very sad. I thought Bryce Dallas Howard, in her feature film debut, did a remarkable job considering she was the main focus of the film. She was very sweet but at the same time had a serious side to her. And the fact that she had to pretend she was blind made her work even harder, but she did a commendable job. Joaquin Phoenix was his usual quiet, brooding self, barely able to crack a smile throughout. Academy Award winner Adrien Brody did well as the strange Noah, who had an affliction that was never explained. I kept wondering why he would choose to do such a small, but ultimately important role. And maybe I just answered my own question.
I did think the movie moved rather slowly. I also felt the same way about The Sixth Sense. Once the ending of The Sixth Sense hit, I suddenly sat up in my seat and wondered if it was really all possible, and it took a second viewing to confirm that it was written so well that it all fit. The ending of The Village however, while also shocking, was written in such a way that I don't need to go back and see it again, because it was really rather simple, but because of the way the rest of the movie went, you were so sucked in to the overall feel, you just didn't see it coming. However, being a M. Night film, while there were times I was wishing they would just get on with it, I kept paying attention to every little detail, trying to stay ahead of him.
The rest of the review will contain spoilers that will ruin the entire movie, so I suggest you skip ahead to the Bottom Line if you don't want to know what happened. Once you know the ending, a lot of questions tend to pop up about the rest of the film, and those are some of the questions I'll be asking next. The movie started on a down note, with the death of a small child. After knowing the truth about the village, I asked myself, was it really worth the lies and secrecy, to let this kid die? He died of some kind of illness that I assume could have easily been taken care of had his father, who was one of the elders, been allowed to leave and get some medicine. I realize they all lived in a nice utopia, but it was his son. Then later when Lucius is the one injured and needing medicine, Ivy is allowed to go? It was nice that she was blind, because she couldn't see what was outside their part of the woods and report back to everyone, but what if she wasn't blind? That was a major coincidence that seemed contrived to get the story across. I suppose however, in order to keep what they had built, if she hadn't been blind, she wouldn't have been allowed to go.
What I really liked about the movie, was that Shyamalan knows we're looking for a twist, so he throws us a few of them. First we find out that there are no creatures in the woods; that it was all done to scare the kids into not leaving the village. It was a way of keeping them innocent. But then, even when that bit of information is shown, Shyamalan throws in a tidbit about how the idea was created through a real life situation Ivy's father read about years before. So that when Ivy is in the woods and we see a creature, we believe that maybe that's what the twist is. That the elders thought they were tricking the rest of the village, but in fact, they were being played. Once again, that myth is busted and we find out that Noah was the one in the costume. So just when you think that the movie is over, Shyamalan busts out the big stick and says, nope, here's the real twist. This isn't in the past, this is now! That threw me for a loop. The movie was made so diligently, and it's so well written, that you really believe it's all happening when he says it is. I did wonder however, how it was possible for there to be a protected area in the middle of the forest that no one was ever allowed to visit. How did those people get there in the first place? How were they able to build a self-sustaining village for all these years with no one ever finding out? And who the heck are all those people? The elders were explained easily enough, but does that mean everyone else in the village was offspring from those originals? I never got a real sense of the rest of the town, so that left me wondering.
Without the twist ending, the movie would have been a run-of-the-mill story. But it's impossible to think about the movie like that because without the twist, there would be no movie to speak of. Was this Shyamalan's best work? I don't think so. I think there's no way he'll ever be able to top The Sixth Sense because that was a wholly original idea and from now on, people will always look at his work with a different viewpoint. I thought The Village was better than Signs. Signs had a better build up, but an ending that left a bad taste in my mouth. Unbreakable is an underrated movie in my opinion. I thought that it was a very well made and well written story, but people were again looking for a big twist, and instead got a slow build to a startling conclusion. I found a lot of the dialogue in The Village to be over-the-top and fake sounding. But at the same time, knowing the ending, I guess it might actually make sense. But at the time I kept thinking that everyone sounded really bad.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed The Village. It wasn't the scary creature film the ads would like you to believe it is, but it is a solid film with an end sequence that will surprise you.