M. Night Shyamalan
Bryce Dallas Howard……….Ivy Walker
Joaquin Phoenix……….Lucius Hunt
Adrien Brody……….Noah Percy
William Hurt……….Edward Walker
Sigourney Weaver……….Alice Hunt
Brendan Gleeson……….August Nicholson
Cherry Jones……….Mrs. Clack
Celia Weston……….Vivian Percy
John Christopher Jones……….Robert Percy
M. Night Shyamalan has painted himself in a corner, so to speak, and it just might be incredibly hard for him to get out of it. The director, after coming off of three rather good films, has created a pattern in his films. He builds up the suspense, dropping subtle clues about the plot along the way, and twists the story in a huge way towards the end, throwing off everything the viewer thought he or she knew about the film.
This worked well for him in The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and, to a lesser degree, Signs. But it has also set audiences up to look for the twist, perhaps not enjoying the film as much or becoming as engrossed in the plot as they should be. People can argue both sides of the issue: that this is bad and brings in viewers just for the major surprises; or, that this is all well and good, so long as the movie delivers and the twist at the end is strong and satisfying. Well, if you don’t have a strong movie, and you have a twist that a lot would describe as terrible, you’ve got a major problem on your hands. Welcome to The Village.
The film is set in a rural village, in the late 1800s, cut off from the rest of the world. The people are quaint yet friendly. There are no technological marvels to be found in their world – they are of a different time and place, where clothes are hand made and people work hard in the fields.
A group of elders, led by Edward Walker (William Hurt) and Alice Hunt (Sigourney Weaver), rule over this tiny village, and life seems pretty good, with one minor exception. There are creatures in the surrounding woods, deemed “Those We Do Not Speak Of” and the elders have made a truce with them. The villagers are to stay out of the woods, and the creatures will stay out of the village.
Well, this truce does not sit well with Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) who wants to travel into the woods and to the towns to get new medicines for the village. Impressed by his bravery is Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) a blind girl who refuses to be kept down by her handicap. She flirts with, and eventually falls in love with, Lucius, and the two eventually decide to marry. The elders are not as impressed with Mr. Hunt, however, and are firm in their rules: no one enters the woods.
Things remain calm and peaceful until a mentally handicapped villager, Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), repeatedly enters the woods without anyone else knowing. Well, this brings the creatures into the village late at night, pounding on doors and leaving warnings in the forms of red slashes and slain livestock. Oh, and it also scares the daylights out of the villagers, too.
The elders are quick to start taking care of this problem, but before they can, everything is turned upside down because of some unexpected actions by Noah. One thing leads to another and suddenly Ivy is now ready and willing to enter the woods for the love of her life. But what of the creatures in the woods? Will Ivy make it to the towns, or fall victim to the terror hiding outside the village?
That’s the plot in a nutshell, as this review is intended to be as spoiler free as possible. If viewers are familar with Shyamalan’s previous work, then they will know what to expect, in a sense. The characterization and drama runs deep in this movie, which will turn off many fans, particularly those of the horror affiliation.
All of the actors play their roles well, and special mention must go to Howard, who plays Ivy with admirable heart and conviction. She also makes the role believeable, as the terror on her face and in her body language as she navigates the woods, blind as a bat, is fantastic.
Phoenix is quiet and reserved in his role, the polar opposite of his previous role in Signs. He deserves praise for the ability to show a wide range of emotions through his facial features, as he was given a character that doesn’t like to talk much. He plays his role perfectly, as do Hurt and Weaver as the mature and parent-like village elders. Their screen time feels limited, however, and the plot points surrounding them feel tacked on – they are merely mentioned in short lines of dialogue and never elaborated on.
There are problems with this film. Sure, there are logic holes that come with any Shyamalan film (And as usual he tries to explain these by the end and just doesn’t fully succeed) and other issues, but the main problem is that Shyamalan has built audiences up to expect the twist ending, and this film just does not deliver.
Oh sure, there are some twists, but to call the major one a let-down is an understatement. Personally, I felt betrayed – not to give anything away, but this film actually inspired anger when it was all over. One can totally understand the absolute irate-ness people felt when watching it. It’s the worst kind of “bait and switch”. Also, through some odd choices in plot development, the twist comes well before it should, and it just feels like Shyamalan tried to temporarily fix it to keep the moving rolling through to the end.
Shyamalan needs to figure out how to get audiences off of the expectation of the twist ending. It removes viewers from the film and instead has them focused only on figuring out what the twist is. He also needs to figure out what kind of film he wants to make, instead of jumping all over the place with his work. The Village suffers from these problems, and because of that it winds down into a disappointing film.
The DVD transfer is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video. The reds and yellows and bright colors look pretty good.
Touchstone offers The Village in English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
This is a one disc presentation. As per his last releases, Shyamalan doesn’t do a commentary track. There is a 24-minute featurette called Deconstructing The Village, broken down into six chapters.
Shooting The Village runs about 10 minutes. It details them picking the shooting location, the pre-production, building the sets, some problems with production and the clothing, among other things.
Casting is exactly what it sounds like. Shyamalan went more for theatrical actors instead of film actors because he liked to shoot long scenes (so how long can film actors actually go then?). Brody, Hurt, Weaver, Brendan Gleeson and Celia Weston, gave Shyamalan a lot of talent to work with.
Boot Camp shows how the actors spent a couple of weeks adapting to the life of a century earlier. Sigourney Weaver had some fun learning how to blacksmith, while others women learned how to handle sheep and cattle. The men, of course, chopped the wood and plowed the fields.
Editing & Sound shows how they created some of the sounds of the film, focusing on the haunted woods sound effects. Scoring The Village looks at the soundtrack and the gifted young violinist who lead the orchestra.
Those We Do Not Speak Of is a kind of funny bit from Shyamalan. He more or less admits that his creatures looked pretty cool in miniature, but when they made them full size, they looked prett silly.
Four deleted scenes come next, and each is introduced by the director. He also returns after the scene to explain why he cut it. None were cut for pacing. Instead, he cut them because he felt the scenes were redundant or gave away too much. One could definitely agree with him there, though the scenes do serve to answer a question or two about the plot.
Bryce’s Diary is about four minutes of voice-over, with text written on the screen. The actress talks about some of her experiences during the shoot.
M. Night’s Home Movie is another one of his home movies made as a young man, and it appears he tries to be like Indiana Jones. Not sure about the correlation to The Village, but it could be fun for those interested in the directors past.
There is also a production photo gallery and some Disney movie trailers (National Treasure, Mr 3000, and two others). There are no DVD-ROM features for the computer.