Friday, February 26, 2016

The Village Review (Classic Write-Up)


If the life of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan were ever adapted into a cheesy documentary, the point in his career when The Village was released would be when the music would get tense and the narrator would intone "And that's when things (dramatic pause) went wrong.". Prior to the release of this movie, Shyamalan had three back-to-back-to-back critical hits and two of those films became box office phenomenon's. It seemed as if the guy could no wrong...until this 2004 feature came along and tossed the director into a decade-long artistic downturn that finally got reversed with last fall's sleeper hit The Visit.

Taken in the full context of the directors filmography, The Village is far from the worst project ever helmed by Mr. Shyamalan. Unlike The Last Airbender and After Earth, there are actual bits of acting to be detected on-screen, and there is a notable level of adroitness on display in certain intense sequences. That being said, this is still a middling movie overall, one lacking a concrete purpose for existing beyond Shyamalan seemingly coming up with its now infamous twist ending and then deciding to craft a story to surround that conclusion.

The village of this film's title houses a number of denizens who live far far away from other inhabited towns and are surrounded by a forest populated by creatures called Those We Don't Speak Of. Eventually, the plot concerns itself with Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), a blind woman who must travel beyond the town's borders to get vital medical supplies needed to heal her true love, Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix).; This journey only takes up the last half hour or so of the movie, with the rest establishing the various members of the populace in the village and what everyday life is for them.

OK, a thriller taking a slow burn approach to its story is a perfectly fine idea, but the problem is there's very little of note occurring in The Village for much of its running time. Most of the characters (save for Ivy) are duller than dirt, and scenes establishing the romance between Ivy and Lucius contain dialogue that is reminiscent of notable lovey-dovey from the classic romance movie Attack Of the Clones. In terms of directing in this section of the film, Shyamalan proves to be a mixed bad. His love for single takes sometimes works (such as in a moment at the start of the running time where two women discover, to their horror, a patch of flowers carrying the forbidden color of red), and the sometimes doesn't, such as in an extended conversation between characters played by William Hurt and Judy Greer.

I did like how he framed a scene depicting Those We Don't Speak Of invading the village, with the creatures always being depicted in the background. Shyamalan also takes the reins on the script, which contains the twist conclusion that this tale about a village of individuals, who dress and act like they're in the 18th century, is not taking place in a bygone time period after all. Nope, it's actually occuring in the modern day, as the leaders of the domain created this village as a way to escape the horrors of the real world.

In theory, twist endings are supposed to upend the story in some way, perhaps change our entire perception of certain characters or emphasize a specific theme in the storyline. Nope, the big "gotcha" moment here doesn't really impact the story at all. Since Ivy is blind, she doesn't see the various technological advances (like a car) around her, and the leaders of the village aren't suddenly depicted as secret evildoers. It's just a bizzare little turn that doesn't really affect the plot one bit. I didn't despise The Village or anything like that, but I wish the overall film ,and especially that big twist, coudl have had more effort put into it, since it all feels so undercooked and sorely lacking in a concrete purpose for existing.

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