‘The Village’ was one twist ending too many for M. Night Shyamalan

Bryce Dallas Howard stars in 'The Village'
Bryce Dallas Howard stars in ‘The Village’

[rating=3]Starring: Judy Greer, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Jayne Atkinson, Fran Kranz, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, Cherry Jones, Celia Weston, John Christopher Jones, Michael
Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan

The strength, I think, with M. Night Shyamalan’s films is that they are largely about the characters. Sure, they often deal with relatively elaborate concepts — alien invasions, dead people, super heroes — but the stories are told through the characters.

With The Village, Shyamalan departs from this a little by telling a story more than exploring characters. This film is the closest he’s come to doing an ensemble film, because it doesn’t really focus on one or two people, but an entire village. But the characters take a back seat to the concept, which causes this film to suffer a bit.

The idea here centers on a small village in the 1800s. The idyllic settlement is threatened by creatures who live in the surrounding woods. However, a peace has been achieved and the creatures have not entered the village in years.

Until now.

As threats from outside and within become deadly, one woman must journey through the forest for help, and face the demons that threaten to expose long buried secrets.

I enjoy Shyamalan’s films. I like them because they often feature great character stories. However, withThe Village his films have become a little bit of a cliché, in that they always feature a twist that gets exposed within the last few minutes of the film. This overly-used trick has, I think, finally gotten a bit old here. To be honest, I figured out the twist within the first five minutes of the film.

Bryce Dallas Howard in 'The Village'
Bryce Dallas Howard in ‘The Village’

While the film’s story is a bit of a departure for Shyamalan, in that it features a love story, what saves The Village are the two leads — Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard. The chemistry between them is palpable, and I’ve come to really like Phoenix as an actor. His understated bravery in the film helps push the story forward, while Howard’s strength sees it through to completion.

Adrian Brody proves a much more important character than initially expected, and this is probably one of the most effective parts of the film. I don’t particularly like Brody as an actor, but he does a fine job here as the mentally challenged Noah.

The Village does sort of lose its focus a little as it shifts from the love story that dominates the first half of the film, to the tense thriller that rules its second half. For a time, I was left wondering just where the film was going, but once it picks up again the dynamics between the characters becomes much more interesting.

Even though the concept here is more prominent than the characters, the people who populate The Village serve as the heartbeat for this movie. Yet ultimately, many of the surprises are not that surprising, and I honestly didn’t find them very satisfying at times. I enjoyed Signs, but I found the movie was more tease than substance when it came to the aliens, and the same problem falls here. The concept of the settlers and the creatures proved more interesting than what ultimately proved to be the truth.

Personally, I’d like to see Shyamalan stop trying to shock people with what has become an ultimately predictable trick. David Fincher suffered from the same problem with several of his films, and after a while this gag simply stops working.

The DVD itself doesn’t feature a whole lot. There are some gushy behind the scenes documentaries, a few deleted scenes, and Shyamalan’s usual home movie clip. The deleted scenes are interesting, but only one of them has any substance. And the home movie clip is funny to watch.

As for my final thoughts on The Village, it is an enjoyable film. But, once all the secrets are revealed, it proves less intriguing than originally believed.

Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 1 hr., 48 mins.

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