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The Village is the latest movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It follows, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. The specialty of Shyamalan's films is the final, surprise, plot twist. The Village is no different in this respect, so I rushed out to see it before I heard what the twist was. Since I don't want to give away the twist, my plot description will be somewhat misleading. The story of The Village centers on a small village somewhere in the United States in the 1890's. It was founded by a group of people who wanted to get away from the dangerous life in the city. These people (William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson et al.) are known, of course, as the Elders, and run the village, which is populated by their now-grown-up children (Joaquin Phoenix, Adrian Brody, Bryce Howard et al.). All this would be fairly innocuous except for the fact that The Village must be constantly defended from mysterious creatures who live in the surrounding woods. As a result, the villagers are trapped and there has been no contact with the outside world for many years. Everything about the creatures seems mythical; the color red attracts them; yellow repels them. On top of this mystery, the Elders themselves have secrets that they keep from the rest of the village. The tranquility of The Village is broken when Phoenix decides he wants to cross the woods to reach the nearest town.
The Village starts out well, creating a nice, creepy, claustrophobic ambience much like Dogville, where everything is happy yet not happy. However, unlike Dogville, The Village doesn't deliver a stunning blow with the final plot twist. The cast of The Village is great. I guess everyone wants to work with Shyamalan. William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Adrian Brody and Joaquin Phoenix have eight Oscar nominations between them. It's particularly nice to see Hurt, one of my fav's, who has been missing in action lately. It's not that he stopped making movies; he just stopped making movies that anyone saw. I have to say that Hurt and the rest of these very good actors are pretty much wasted here. Brody, in particular, has a silly part as a deranged villager. Phoenix, who has turned out to be a very good actor, has the best role but he is only in the first half of the movie for reasons I can't reveal. Heaven knows why Sigourney Weaver took this part. She plays Phoenix's mother and gets to look worried a lot but that's about it. What a waste! Please tell me that "mother" roles are not the only ones that Weaver can get now. Let's have Aliens V! The central character of The Village, a young blind woman who is in love with Phoenix, is played by newcomer, Bryce Howard. If she looks familiar to you, it is because she looks so much like her father, Ron Howard, did as a young man. Anyway, she is quite good.
I think my problem with the The Village is partially may expectations. Shyamalan's first big movie, The Sixth Sense, was so good, and the final twist, so cool, that his subsequent movies have paled a bit. Unbreakable was pretty good, but Signs really sucked. The Village doesn't suck but the nice atmosphere built up at the beginning of the movie, just sort of seeps away as the secrets are revealed. It's a cool idea but I wish it had been handled better. By the end, you just want to find out what the final twist is so you can get out of the theatre.