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Rated 2.98 stars
by 2914 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Much Ado About Nothing
by Diana Saenger

After achieving success with The Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is a well-recognized name. So too are the mystical, foreboding and surprise endings  he strives for in each of his films.

Most of The Village meets all of Shyamalan’s requirements for a don’t-leave-to-get-popcorn movie. The township is a remote place where the villagers never enter the woods to the outside world, and if they follow the rules of Edward (William Hurt), the Town Leader, the outsiders will not come into the village and harm them.

At first glance the close-knit community appears intriguing. Edward abides by his own rules, which often causes strife in his own life as he’s married to one woman, but secretly pines for Alice (Sigourney Weaver), a single mother to Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix).

When the village bell rings to announce outsiders are intruding, everyone hides, but by morning light when the slash of red, a forbidden color in the village, adorns certain doors, chaos ensues. Lucius decides to cross the forbidden woods to get medical supplies for some of the villagers, and Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) begs him not to go. She is blind, but can see a faint glimmer of Lucius’ color, and is attracted to him. Lucius also cares for Ivy, but has competition for her affection in the mentally disturbed Noah (Adrien Brody).

Shyamalan has set up his story with provocative caveats of harm. Loud noises often emit from within the forest, and warnings from the elders of experiences from earlier lives leave little doubt about the danger in the other world. However, the little sealed box inside every home raises our curiosity about what’s really going on.

Characters in The Village are well drawn and superbly performed. William Hurt offers a town leader that everyone trusts with his or her life. Joaquin Phoenix is a marvelous actor, and makes every moment he’s on screen captivating. Adrien Brody receives little time on camera, and although he may have longed to play something quite different than his Oscar-winning role in The Pianist, his Noah seems a tad too silly.

I think one of the best reasons to see The Village is the amazing performance of Bryce Dallas Howard in her first feature film. Growing up under the roof of her father, Ron Howard, might contribute somewhat to her knowledge of the business, but her performance as the courageous, inquisitive and sweet Ivy can only be attributed to her own pure talent. She was discovered by M. Night while playing in a Shakespeare play off-Broadway. Look for a lot more from this young lady. 

One’s enjoyment or dissatisfaction of The Village can be easily ruined by an in-depth critique of the film, so in an effort to let moviegoers form their own conclusions, this part of my review is governed by restraint. Unfortunately, in his attempt to surprise, Shyamalan turned tail and found himself back at square one. The ending of The Village might be a surprising one -- although there are some hints along the way -- but the sting of its cheapness and unoriginality disappoints more than it surprises.

(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated “PG-13,” a scene of violence and frightening situations.)

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