*** (out of 5)
July 30, 2004
Bryce Dallas Howard as IVY WALKER
Joaquin Phoenix as LUCIUS HUNT
Adrien Brody as NOAH PERCY
William Hurt as EDWARD WALKER
Sigourney Weaver as ALICE HUNT
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
BY KEVIN CARR
While I’ve been extremely excited about a lot of the movies of the season, I have noticed that a lot of them seem a little too familiar. Remakes, sequels, action flicks, there’s a bit of a drought for originality when it comes to Hollywood lately. This is why “The Village” was bit of a breath of fresh air in a sense, and that’s what really makes it shine for me.
Although I don’t feel this is M. Night’s best work, it’s an interesting story that keeps you guessing. The writer/director continues his Hitchcock-esque style of pacing in this film that starts out slow and adds on to the suspense until the end.
This story takes place in a small village in rural Pennsylvania. The village is wary from the warnings of the elders of the town that there are creatures who lurk in the surrounding woods. So long as the boundaries of the woods are not disturbed, the village will remain safe. Things begin to get tense when an emergency demands that the boundary between the village and the woods be broken and a young woman risks everything to save a loved one by crossing that boundary.
One of the strong parts about the film is that it keeps you guessing. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen because the plot is so much more unique. No comic-book villains are in those woods, no silver-haired hit men. It’s not a black and white, good vs. evil story. It’s hard to say much more about the story without giving anything away, but the lack of obvious plot turns is one of the major draws that makes it more fun.
I will admit, however, that one thing that I was disappointed in with this film was the “scare factor.” When I go to see “scary movie,” I want to be heart pounding, sweaty palms, dry-mouth scared. While there are a couple quick moments that startled me, I wasn’t scared. I felt suspense, but no fear, no terror. I really wanted a bit of that rush – it’s part of the fun of going to a scary movie.
Another flaw in this movie is some of the story structure. The film takes some time to get to the real meat of the story with a few false starts. Some of these “false starts” are created without ever being followed through. You do leave the film asking “What was the whole point of this sub-plot?” “What ever happened between these two characters?” in another relationship sub-plot. The film at times leads the audience into thinking one story is being told when the main climax ends up being another.
I will say that another positive for the film, though, is Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of acclaimed director Ron Howard. Cast based off a stage performance attended by the director and name recognition from her famous dad, Howard lights her own star in this film as the blind Ivy Walker. She gives a convincing performance and is never boring on-screen. Watch out for her to become a big, big name in the next few years.
Another great performance here comes from Academy Award winner Adrien Brody, in his first Hollywood role since winning the Oscar. A role that makes up for in intensity that it lacks in screen time, Brody plays the “village idiot” in a very moving way. Although the pace of the film is slow at times, his performance never bores.
As with all his films, watch out for the director himself to make a small cameo. This appearance is much, much smaller than the role he created in his last film, “Signs”, so be sure you don’t miss him. Watch out for his face in a reflection in the last act of the film.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed blockbuster, look somewhere else. If you’re looking for a scary or overly gory blood-fest, keep looking. However, if you’re looking for a story that’s different than anything else that’s playing at the moment, than I’d recommend this movie. If you are willing to let slow pacing flow into a highly suspenseful and satisfying conclusion, than I would recommend this movie. Despite some other reviews giving it a tepid review, I’d say “The Village” is definitely worth a try.