The Village
Touchstone // PG-13 // July 30, 2004
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted August 28, 2004
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M. Night Shyamalan needs to be careful or he's quickly going to be turned into a one-trick-pony. I was a huge fan of The Sixth Sense, a big fan of Unbreakable and a moderate fan of Signs, but with each subsequent movie Shyamalan's plots seem to become a little less unpredictable, a little more clichéd, and far too dependant on what has become his trademark: "the surprise ending."

The Village, unfortunately, is all about the ending – and it's one so obvious that the 100-mintues of film time it takes to get to the resolution seems to drag on…and on…and on. This is easily Shyamalan's dullest movie…and we don't even have Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson to help us through the pain.

Instead, the movie features William Hurt playing Edward Walker, the patriarch of a seemingly peaceful community of the late 1800's where everyone is prim, proper, devout and seems to spend their time eating meals together at huge long tables, or gathering for meetings at the social hall. I was waiting for everyone to get together and raise a barn, but I guess that's another movie.

But danger lurks in the nearby woods. Strange sounds come from there at nighttime, and we hear stories about the creatures that live there, how no one is allowed to venture into the woods, and how the color red cannot be allowed in the village because it is the color of evil.

Then there's young Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who has a growing curiosity about the world outside the village and keeps lobbying "the elders" (the most senior members of the community) to venture into the woods. Lucius is also involved in a subplot with both of Walker's daughters, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Kitty (Judy Greer). Kitty is in love with Lucius, but he does not love her. Instead he is smitten with Ivy, who just happens to be blind. Oh, and then there's Oscar-winner Adrian Brody playing the village idiot in a performance that will make the Academy seriously consider a recall policy on all future awards.

About halfway through the picture, an accident happens which forces Ivy to plead with her father to send her into the woods for some much-needed supplies. At this point in the movie, the majority of the audience knows exactly what is going on – and they're just waiting for the movie to catch up with them. But Shyamalan waits and waits to reveal his "shocking" ending, one I'm almost positive we've already seen in a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits many years ago.

Which brings us back to the topic of Shyamalan's one-trick-pony act. After playing mind games with his audience for four straight pictures now, and doing so less successfully each time, the director has managed to limit his range without any interference from the studios or lack of support from the movie going audience. Can Shyamalan now ever do a film where the story is just a straightforward one? And if he does, would a mainstream audience ever be receptive to that kind of a movie from him?

I still think M. Night is one of the world's best young directors, and I still believe he has a knack for telling a great story. But if The Village marks the beginning of the end for his directorial career, I'm afraid he'll have no one to blame but himself. The Village is a sham film. A P.T. Barnum circus sideshow that tries to succeed solely on an illusion, but fails miserably because the audience already knows how the trick is done.

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