The Village (2004)
Roger Ebert called The Village
a colossal miscalculation, which is probably the best way to describe it. There are compelling ideas in the film, and the story itself could have been quite interesting if it had been made in a different manner. But it wasnt, so while The Village may be an interesting failure, its still a failure. This is the film where the trademark Shyamalan twist - the directors calling card since The Sixth Sense - finally turned against its creator. There are actually two twists here: first, that the creatures in the woods are not real; second, that the village exists in modern times, and its founders have chosen to live there in rejection of the cruelty of the modern world (three twists actually, if you count billing Joaquin Phoenix as the lead and then having him spend the bulk of the film injured and silent on a cot). As a social experiment, The Village is a fascinating idea. As a thriller, its a deflating experience. The sort of tension and suspense that worked to such great effect in The Sixth Sense and Signs is nowhere to be found here. The direction never bothers to make us feel the fear that the characters feel, so when we do eventually learn that the creatures arent real, it makes the film unbearably dull. Once we know the trick, rewatching the film is meaningless because theres no suspense to keep us there. The rest of the story is so flimsily written that theres no reason to come back to it. Had Shyamalan stayed away from trying to make a suspense film and simply made a drama, The Village could have actually been quite interesting. Instead he tries to have it both ways, half-thriller and half-drama, leaving the whole film feeling incomplete. On a positive note, it's got a more than solid performance from Bryce Dallas Howard, and James Newton Howards score is absolutely gorgeous. At least theres that.