The Village
Judy Greer, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody
Directed By:
M. Night Shyamalan

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: The Village is not what you think it is going to be. From the marketing, one might be lead to believe that it's going to be a supernatural thriller, much like what M. Night Shyamalan has given us before in The Sixth Sense. Without giving too much away, I can safely say that this marketing angle is poorly conceived and is sure to put off some people. Those who go in with an open mind will come away with a fine experience unmarred by artificial expectations.

The plot behind The Village involves a quaint village that looks to be set in a nondescript pioneering age. Their lives are simple and everything seems to be carefree... except for the fact that the town is bordered by poles bearing yellow flags and the woods surrounding the village are under constant watch. Before too long, viewers learn that the town has made an uneasy truce with sentient monsters living in the woods - they'll leave the woods alone and the monsters won't come into the village to harm the villagers. When a quiet young man (Joaquin Phoenix) suggests that he leave the village to go for medicine from the outside world, the village finds itself under harm from the forest's menace.

While one might find this main story arc quite interesting, it takes a backseat to the main drama of the villagers, who must deal with their personal lives, most of which are fraught with secrets that they can't help but keep. In fact, you'll find many things about The Village are about secrets that can't help but be kept. The all-star cast brings a lot of excellent performances to the story. Phoenix is wonderful as the stoic young man Julius, and Brody shows his talent as the mentally handicapped Noah. One of the best performances goes to newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard as the blind girl, Ivy, who becomes a major driving force in the story in the end.

As with many of Shyamalan's films, the production is all about keeping things simple. The sets and costumes are wonderful without being lavish and there seems to be little in the way of effects. The Village is shot in a very Hitchcockian manner, leaving a lot of the potential horror to your imagination. And once the horror is revealed, one might think the trauma has passed, only to find it thrown back at you. Lighting and the pure cinematic eye that the film is shot in screams quality.

Where The Village really succeeds is in that it proves to be a sly metaphor. While the story itself has Shyamalan's trademark twists, especially the most important one a little over halfway through the story, it doesn't rely on this twists to punch the plot home. Instead, even the littlest thing has a metaphoric meaning, even down to the "bad color".

I will say though, if you go into this movie wanting pure horror or just to be genuinely scared, you're probably not going to come out too happy. The film is done well, but you have to understand it plays out more like a lesson in sociology than anything else. Still, The Village is a testament to Shyamalan's storytelling ability.

- - Vane

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