The Village

(directed by M Night Shyamalan, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Sigourney Weaver, 108 mins)
released UK 20 August 2004

Some of this previous director's films have been quite good, most notably Signs, which actually managed to keep a raised tone of suspense and assisted by some great acting from Mel Gibson right till the slightly disappointing end, so it was with hope and expectation that when I saw the trailers for The Village, that it would indeed be a film of the similar ilk.

The basic plot is this: there's a village. It's surrounded by "those we do not speak of" who seem to thrive on the colour of red (the bad colour, as referred to in the film) and also scare the living daylights out of those who leave the confines of the village. So much so that there are people on watch constantly to ensure that no one leaves, except there's one that wants to: Julis Hunt (Phoenix) who pleads with the village elders to leave the village to go to "the towns" and bring back medicines for the village.

Although unsuccessful, during constant watches later, it transpires that those we do not speak of pay a visit, putting the fear inside those who dare to leave. However, it is during an early sequence that one of many plot holes spring to mind. If those we do not speak of are so bad, then how come they get so close to what becomes a central character and does not kill her? Surely the point of badness is doing bad things, or so that they'd seem at any rate.

Later on, as the young of the village explore and occasionally decide to go past the outskirts of the village (one of them bringing back berries, coloured red of course) all of a sudden a mysterious appearance of the bad colour comes abound. Coincidence? Yes. By now most of you will have worked out the plot somewhat, and I won't spoil it here for you, but Shyamalan commits a cardinal sin - by revealing the reason for those we do not speak of way too early in the movie, and from then on it's only the character Ivy Walker's mission to save Lucius (stabbed by a jealous love rival in the village) by getting the medicines and going through the village - and finding something unexpected on the other side the fence - that turns it more into a love story than anything else. Walker is blind and so cannot see the fear, just hears it and deals with it as best she can. Although this was more well done than the earlier suspense of those we do not speak of, it just felt an empty gesture, like it was tacked on to the end of the movie like an afterthought.

Joaquin Phoenix is good at Lucius, quiet yet speaking wholeheartedly. Also, Bryce Dallas Howard is really good as Ivy, conveying the emotions of blindness, pain and love at the same time, and almost singlehandedly she makes you forget how poor Signourney Weaver is as the wife of one of the elders and Lucius' mother. It's a really weak performance from Weaver, and thoroughly disappointing to say the least. It just doesn't convey anything, and that's the problem.

Not the only problem either: the plot is full of holes with far too many vague references which will make you think "ah c'mon!" as well as giving away a key plot line far too early, which almost made me think Scooby Doo (you'll understand why if you've seen it) and Twilight Zone all in one. Not just that either, but it seems that the biggest weakness of all is that argubaly all the best parts were in the trailer, and while that's good, the rest of the film meanders along and doesn't just tick or grab the attention whatsoever. In short, a bitter disappointment and not very good at all. Maybe Shyamalan should take a long hard look before writing his next movie and learning from the mistakes of this one. He needs to.

Warren's rating: 37%