If you’re having trouble sleeping, taking in a showing of “The Village” will definitely fix that. While the movie is beautifully photographed and well acted, the script is boring and a massive letdown. Essentially, the film is like a chocolate Easter Bunny; it looks great on the outside, but is hollow on the inside.
“The Village” takes us to a town called Covington, an isolated place surrounded by mysterious woods. In these woods, we are told, live mysterious creatures that have a tactile agreement with the villagers — the villages do not enter the woods, and the creatures stay in the forest. But when frightening creature incursions occur in the village and a violent stabbing occurs, it is ultimately left up to one villager to overcome her fears and travel through the woods in order to reach the city for vital medical supplies.
The cast, led by Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, and Bryce Dallas Howard, perform with great emotional depth. They make us believe every feeling they are experiencing and as a result we sympathize with their plight. Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) is truly amazing as the town simpleton driven to commit a horribly violent act. Brody projects a kind of childlike innocence that radiates from his character. The rest of the cast perform equally well, but why they talk like the Amish on Quaaludes is anyone’s guess. The set decoration and costume design by Larry Dias and Ann Roth, respectively, are excellent and look authentic. Roger Deakin’s cinematography is a visual feast, making the film gorgeous to look at even if you’re not enjoying it.
Saying the script is a problem is a massive understatement. It’s mostly boring, and when the origins of the creatures are revealed, it’s a major letdown. The type of “twist” ending M. Night Shyamalan has become famous for comes across as ridiculous here, and is more likely to elicit laughter than shock. A major part of the script, in which a blind woman must navigate the forest by herself, is so far-fetched that it’s not even worth mentioning. Had it been presented differently, the sequences could have been some of the most suspenseful of the entire movie. Instead, they just seem unbelievable and end up slowing down the pace of the film.
As a director, Shyamalan (“Signs”) tries to invoke tension with camera angles, calculated zooms, and lighting. Unfortunately, this only works for so long and the film eventually falls into a plodding pace that will have the audience glancing at their watches. If your script’s boring, no amount of arty camera work is going to hide it no matter how hard you try. And when will it dawn on Shyamalan to stop putting himself in his movies? His cameos have stopped being fun and are now just distracting. The best thing for Shyamalan to do is to concentrate on his work behind the camera, not in front of it.
Sadly, “The Village” joins the list of summer blockbusters that imploded upon impact. “The Village” is not particularly scary, not very interesting, and not worth the price of admissions. Anyone with low expectations might enjoy the film, but everyone else would be better off renting the director’s previous — and far superior — works.
M. Night Shyamalan (director) / M. Night Shyamalan (screenplay)
CAST: Bryce Dallas Howard …. Ivy Walker
Joaquin Phoe Nix …. Lucius Hunt
Adrien Brody …. Noah Percy
William Hurt …. Edward Walker
Sigourney Weaver …. Alice Hunt