The Village

Cast:
Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy Walker
Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius Hunt
Adrien Brody as Noah Percy
William Hurt as Edward Walker
Sigourney Weaver as Alice Hunt
Brendan Gleeson as August Nicholson
Cherry Jones as Mrs. Clack
Celia Weston as Vivian Percy
John Christopher Jones as Robert Percy
Frank Collison as Victor
Jayne Atkinson as Tabitha Walker
Judy Greer as Kitty Walker
Fran Kranz as Christop Crane
Michael Pitt as Finton Coin
Jesse Eisenberg as Jamison

Critique:
Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has had a string of successful movies with interesting story lines and unexpected plot twists. With The Village, he again gives the audience a mystery that many will enjoy trying to figure out before the closing credits roll.

The Village is a puritanical, isolated place set in 1860′s Pennsylvania. Surrounding the village is a dark forest in which resides “those that we do not speak of” who the town elders have made an agreement with. None from the town will enter the forest and none of the creatures will enter the town. This agreement has worked for generations, but for some mysterious reason animals are now showing up dead. Finding the animals, skinned but not eaten, has made many in the town worried that the truce might be coming to an end.

Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) is intent on leaving the village, through the forbidden forest, to get medical supplies from a nearby village. All of his requests have been denied by the elders who do not wish to break the pact. However, he has discovered that Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), a mentally challenged peer of Lucius, was able to wander into the forest and not been harmed. He thinks that Noah’s slow witted innocence is what prevented him from being harmed and that Lucius’ own purity of purpose will provide him safe passage past the creatures.

Telling any more of the story will give too much away, but Joaquin Phoenix gives a great performance as a young man resolved and determined to risk his life for the good of his community. The main problem is that the film uses a stilted, but thoughtful, vernacular. It might take some people a little time to get comfortable with their dialect, but after that, the quality of the acting stands out. William Hurt, as town patriarch Edward Walker, gives a very strong performance as the town’s spiritual leader. The rest of the cast is also solid but Bryce Dallas Howard, as Hurt’s daughter Ivy Walker, gives an outstanding performance. She plays an inspirational, blind, and determined woman in a role that should get her noticed.

Shyamalan has yet again been able to create an eerie and foreboding atmosphere that always has you suspecting something sinister is just about to happen. His pacing of the film is slow but deliberate. It gives the actors plenty of time to develop character as well as letting the dramatic music of James Newton Howard (who has been used on all of Syamalan’s other films) envelope the viewer. For people that are action junkies, the pace might be too slow, but if you enjoy bonding with the characters on screen, it is very satisfying.

The cinematography is classic Shyamalan; the camera is constantly looking at everyday things in a way that makes them appear unnatural, with large sweeping shots of what lies just at the edge of site, and deep closeups of the characters as the events unfold around them.

Who should see this movie? If you enjoyed all of Shyamalan’s other work, you will like The Village. There is solid plot and several twists that are unexpected. As a horror movie, it is more creepy than overtly scary, but it does have its frightening moments. A very strong and powerful love story does play out, but it is a serious one and surrounded by the mystery of the village. One or two humorous moments do not make this a comedy, so if you are looking for a laugh you need something else. If you want to use your mind, then you will enjoy figuring out where the story is leading you as well as giving you plenty to talk about afterwards. Overall, The Village is a good solid movie with plenty to offer if you are patient enough to get it.

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