The Village

Starring William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody & Bryce Dallas Howard. Written and directed by M. Night
Running Time: 108 mins
It doesn't give anything away to suggest that M. Night Shyamalan has adopted the surprise-ending as his trademark. In fact, his films seem increasingly to focus on what Hollywood folk call "the reveal." As such, The Village presents the reviewer with an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, I don't want to spoil the surprise. On the other, this is a very mediocre film, and I would encourage you to miss it. So you see the dilemma?

However, on the off-chance you choose to ignore my advice, I will do my best to keep the final twist a secret.

Which means you will have to take me at my word. Because, in my view, the film's biggest flaw is that it puts too great an emphasis on the construction of the twist. But the twist, in the end, just isn't that interesting. I could explain further, but...

The Village presents a strange 19th Century American hamlet where two primary colours are at odds. The villagers wear yellow. The evil things in the forests wear red. Together they wander through an eerie, if obvious, allegory of contemporary America where the leaders in the government use fear tactics to maintain their power. Amidst this backdrop, a young love blossoms, is threatened and can only be saved by a daring mission into the forbidden forest. And then...

Since his brilliant debut, The Sixth Sense (not his first film, just the first one anyone actually saw), Shyamalan has grown mightily as a self-promoter even as his filmmaking seems to slide backwards. Maybe that's why he is able to attract very big stars to act in his films? Maybe because he spends so little money on effects, he has more budget to pay them? Either way, in this film there is a great deal of wasted talent. None of the performances are bad -- no, that's not true, Adrien Brody is almost silly in his portrayal of the village idiot -- but none are particularly memorable. I could tell you how most of the performances are bogged down in service of the final twist, but then...

The film is not as scary as Shyamalan probably hoped, but it is scary enough that it may not be appropriate for impressionable youngsters.

Harden Grace is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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