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Rated 2.98 stars
by 2914 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Hamlet Moment
by David Haviland

The Village is the latest spooky thriller from M.Night Shyamalan, writer-director of The Sixth Sense. The film is a massive disappointment, chiefly because it only really works on second viewing. Shyamalan’s previous films were engaging dramas in their own right, without requiring prior knowledge of the twist.

The story concerns an isolated pre-industrial Midwest village, which is run by a committee of elders. The villagers have chosen to move away from the towns, and live in a clearing at the centre of a wood that's inhabited by dangerous creatures. The villagers have a fragile pact with the creatures, whereby they stay out of the woods, and the creatures stay out of the village.

This pact begins to be tested when the younger villagers start to stray into the woods. Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) pleads with the elders to let him travel to town to get some medicine, but they refuse. One night, after a wedding, the villagers return to their homes to find their front doors daubed with red, the creatures’ colour.

To reveal any more of the plot would spoil it. The film is beautifully shot by the Coens’ cinematographer Roger Deakins, and Shyamalan creates considerable suspense and tension by withholding all but the briefest glimpses of the creatures. However, despite the slickness of the execution, The Village simply didn't engage this viewer.

The story, unfortunately, only makes sense in hindsight. There are a number of different plots, which are largely unrelated, and there’s no obvious central character. The plot moves between a number of romances, none of which really develops or grabs our interest. The performances are hopelessly mannered, particularly Adrien Brody as the village idiot, and William Hurt’s flat delivery quickly becomes irritating.

The Village was panned by many American critics, and bad word-of-mouth caused it to drop off disastrously at the box-office after an impressive opening weekend. Shyamalan remains a remarkable filmmaker, but The Village feels like a moment of hubris, hopefully to be rectified in his next outing.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated "PG-13" for scenes of violence and frightening situations.)

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