Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Village

2004, US, directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Rating: ***

M. Night Shyamalan has painted himself into something of a cinematic corner with his successful exercise in branding: he's expected to deliver a slow, oblique, atmospheric build-up, followed by a twist that turns everything on its head. The setting this time is the late 1890's, in a remote American village, surrounded by forests that house dangerous creatures with whom a truce has been reached (this immediately leads to some questions about how the village engages in trade for building materials, but those matters are never really addressed). The villagers all speak as though they've read too many classic novels, although in one way this is an effective device to underline their lack of any connection with changes in the exterior world. While the cast is strong, they don't always have a whole lot to do; Brendan Gleeson and Sigourney Weaver do a lot of standing around looking tortured and not much more, although William Hurt's distinctive voice is well-employed, while Bryce Dallas Howard is impressive as a tomboyish blind girl who is the agent by which the film's 'shock' is revealed. Although the twist is certainly guessable, it's good enough to get audiences sitting up, and it lingers longer than the overblown 'boo!' moment of The Sixth Sense.

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