View Full Version : Reviews: 'The Village'

07-30-2004, 07:53 AM
(Thought I'd start a new thread. I think a few folks will get out to see this one.)

Review: 'The Village' Shyamalan's best film yet
By David Germain
The Associated Press

(AP) -- Where to begin in terms of the revelations in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village"?

Let's start with Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director Ron Howard. With only stage roles and bit parts in her dad's movies beforehand, Howard delivers a radiant leading-lady debut that dominates the film and its excellent ensemble, which includes Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and Adrien Brody.

There are the usual Shyamalan twists, certainly not as jaw-dropping as the ending of "The Sixth Sense," but still intriguing. Some will see the big surprise coming, and some may find it flimsy, even laughable, the way many greeted the conclusion of Shyamalan's "Unbreakable."

Yet unlike writer-director Shyamalan's previous films, including 2002's "Signs," the twists and gothic creepiness are not the payoff of "The Village." The rewards run much deeper in this simple story laced with a rich subtext and, like classic fairy tales, suffused with twilight terror and repressed carnality.

The real revelation is Shyamalan's growth as a storyteller, advancing from a modern Rod Serling specializing in "Twilight Zone" zingers to a mythmaker invoking the restrained passion of the Bronte sisters and the puritanical inhibitions of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"The Village" is Shyamalan's best film yet, demanding repeated viewings and endless discussion about the morality and implications of the characters' choices.

A date on a tombstone in the opening funeral sequence establishes the year as 1897, yet "The Village" exists in a timeless void, formal speech patterns and rigid lifestyles that hark to colonial times mixing with a more progressive looseness of expression and behavior.

A child is buried, a father grieves, a tightknit community gathers for a mournful meal, prefaced by a heartfelt mantra from village elder Edward Walker (Hurt): "We are grateful for the time we have been given."

Compelling questions
With painstaking detail on the 40-acre set built in his home turf of rural Pennsylvania, Shyamalan introduces the villagers' idyllic lives of work, family and communal fealty.

But their isolated village has its boogeymen, carnivorous creatures that live in the surrounding woods, with whom the townsfolk share an uneasy coexistence. The villagers do not venture into the woods, and the beasts stay away from town.

The balance is disrupted when sturdy, taciturn youth Lucius Hunt ("Signs" co-star Phoenix) proposes journeying to the towns beyond the woods for medicines to prevent more young people from dying. After Lucius makes a test incursion into the forest, the creatures respond with a frightening foray into the village. The elders, including Lucius' mother (Weaver), take it as a warning.

Calamitous circumstance involving Lucius, his spitfire sweetheart Ivy (Howard), the blind daughter of Edward Walker, and village idiot Noah (Brody) forces an expedition to the outside world, which the elders forsook as an unwholesome and violent place.

"The Village" raises compelling questions about the lengths parents might go to shield their children from harm, and whether isolating the young ones from the phantoms in the closet might simply unleash the monsters under the bed.

Shyamalan's austere, almost childlike dialogue conceals hidden depths of anxiety, melancholy and yearning. When Phoenix's Lucius, cut from stoic Pilgrim cloth, finally lets his hair down, his quaintly tender expression of love toward Ivy somehow is both joyous and heartbreaking.

Phoenix, Hurt and Brody offer deeply textured performances, while Brendan Gleeson and Cherry Jones provide fine support as village elders. Weaver sadly is underused, and the film leaves the impression that a subplot involving hers and Hurt's characters ended up largely excised so Shyamalan could showcase Howard's Ivy.

Howard usurps the film with a willful performance as Ivy progresses from gentle, playful soul to bullheaded trailblazer resolved to overcome the hobgoblins that have pervaded her nightmares since childhood.

Discovered by Shyamalan in an off-Broadway Shakespeare play, Howard next stars in "Manderlay," taking on the role Nicole Kidman originated in "Dogville" for the second part of Lars von Trier's trilogy.

No matter how "The Village" eventually ranks in Shyamalan's filmography, the film may wind up best remembered for the emergence of Howard as a major Hollywood talent.

cincinnati chili
07-30-2004, 07:56 AM
And here's the other perspective. Note, this guy gave four stars to "Signs."



July 30, 2004

Lucius Hunt: Joaquin Phoenix
Ivy Walker: Bryce Dallas Howard
Edward Walker: William Hurt
Alice Hunt: Sigourney Weaver
Noah Percy: Adrien Brody
Kitty Walker: Judy Greer
Victor: Frank Collison
Jamison: Jesse Eisenberg

Touchstone Pictures presents a film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Running time: 120 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for a scene of violence and frightening situations).


"The Village" is a colossal miscalculation, a movie based on a premise that cannot support it, a premise so transparent it would be laughable were the movie not so deadly solemn. It's a flimsy excuse for a plot, with characters who move below the one-dimensional and enter Flatland. M. Night Shyamalan, the writer-director, has been successful in evoking horror from minimalist stories, as in "Signs," which if you think about it rationally is absurd -- but you get too involved to think rationally. He is a director of considerable skill who evokes stories out of moods, but this time, alas, he took the day off.

Critics were enjoined after the screening to avoid revealing the plot secrets. That is not because we would spoil the movie for you. It's because if you knew them, you wouldn't want to go. The whole enterprise is a shaggy dog story, and in a way, it is all secrets. I can hardly discuss it at all without being maddingly vague.

Let us say that it takes place in an unspecified time and place, surrounded by a forest the characters never enter. The clothing of the characters and the absence of cars and telephones and suchlike suggest either the 1890s, or an Amish community. Everyone speaks as if they had studied "Friendly Persuasion." The chief civic virtues are probity and circumspection. Here is a village that desperately needs an East Village.

The story opens with a funeral attended by all the villagers, followed by a big outdoor meal at long tables groaning with corn on the cob and all the other fixin's. Everyone in the village does everything together, apparently, although it is never very clear what most of their jobs are. Some farming and baking goes on.

The movie is so somber, it's afraid to raise its voice in its own presence. That makes it dreary even during scenes of shameless melodrama. We meet the patriarch Edward Walker (William Hurt), who is so judicious in all things he sounds like a minister addressing the Rotary Club. His daughter Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), is blind but spunky. The stalwart young man, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), petitions the elders to let him take a look into the forest. His widowed mother Alice (Sigourney Weaver), has feelings for Edward Walker. The village idiot (Adrien Brody), gambols about, and gamboling is not a word that I use lightly. There is a good and true man (Brendan Gleeson). And a bridegroom who is afraid his shirt will get wrinkled.

Surrounding the village is the forest. In the forest live vile, hostile creatures who dress in red and have claws of twigs. They are known as Those We Do Not Speak Of (except when we want to end a designation with a preposition). We see Those We Do Not Speak, etc., only in brief glimpses, like the water-fixated aliens in "Signs." They look better than the "Signs" aliens, who looked like large extras in long underwear, while Those We Do Not, etc., look like their costumes were designed at summer camp.

Watchtowers guard the periphery of the village, and flares burn through the night. But not to fear: Those We Do, etc., have arrived at a truce. They stay in the forest and the villagers stay in the village. Lucius wants to go into the forest and petitions the elders, who frown at this desire. Ivy would like to marry Lucius, and tells him so, but he is so reflective and funereal, it will take him another movie to get worked up enough to deal with her. Still, they love each other. The village idiot also has a thing for Ivy, and sometimes they gambol together.

Something terrible happens to somebody. I dare not reveal what, and to which, and by whom. Edward Walker decides reluctantly to send someone to "the towns" to bring back medicine for whoever was injured. And off goes his daughter Ivy, a blind girl walking through the forest inhabited by Those Who, etc. She wears her yellow riding hood, and it takes us a superhuman effort to keep from thinking about Grandmother's House.

Solemn violin dirges permeate the sound track. It is autumn, overcast and chilly. Girls find a red flower and bury it. Everyone speaks in the passive voice. The vitality has been drained from the characters; these are the Stepford Pilgrims. The elders have meetings from which the young are excluded. Someone finds something under the floorboards. Wouldn't you just know it would be there, exactly where it was needed, in order for someone to do something he couldn't do without it.

Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It's a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It's so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we're back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.

Copyright Chicago Sun-Times Inc.

Chip R
07-30-2004, 10:00 AM
(Thought I'd start a new threat. I think a few folks will get out to see this one.)


07-30-2004, 10:22 AM
Wow! :eek: It's too bad Roger Ebert didn't tell us how he really felt. I tend to agree with him more often than not though. I am interested in seeing Ron Howard's daughter.

Chip R
07-30-2004, 11:02 AM
The Enquirer didn't have much good to say about it either.


Skip the trip
to 'The Village'

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Village
Score: 2 (out of 10)
(PG-13 A scene of violence, frightening situations)
Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
118 minutes.

Don't go into the woods. No, really. Don't bother.

If you do venture into the forested thickets of The Village, you risk getting bogged down in a silly stunt of a movie from a guy who should know better.

Fright-maven M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) shoves his talented cast into contrivances so tortured they squeal, in service of a plot that amounts to little more than a prank. Not to mention the fact that despite elaborate publicity stunts and stern warnings to avoid giving away the movie's "secrets," very little happens on screen that can't be predicted by any reasonably attentive viewer.

The setting is what looks like some kind of 19th-century cult outpost where everyone speaks in the starchy patois of a Colonial Williamsburg tour guide. The village is surrounded by thick woods guarded by torch lights and yellow banners meant to keep away unseen creatures who are so scary that sentries spend the night in towers to warn of any incursions. (How the villagers got into the village valley in the first place is never explained.)

The fearsome critters, we're told, have some kind of unspoken detente with the villagers: Leave us alone, and we'll do the same. Yet there are always young folks eager to tempt fate.

For the movie's purposes, it is Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), a moody, tightly wound young man who wants to cross the woods to "the towns," which, though wicked, contain medicines that might prevent children from dying. Passing comments reveal that all the village elders (including Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt) lost loved ones to violent crime in "the towns," and apparently fear bandits more than lethal diseases, so they discourage Lucius.

The other key character is Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), a blind girl with preternatural navigational abilities who falls in love with Lucius and marries him just as the creatures seem to be on a rampage - skinning livestock, painting red slashes on buildings, stomping around town, growling, what have you.

Shyamalan throws in a tragedy involving a simpleton (Adrien Brody), then sends Ivy off to "the towns" on her own.

The Big Twist near the end is such a bore it's not worth revealing. Suffice it to say it's less than a shattering shock, and The Village is less than even middling quality entertainment.

E-mail mmcgurk@enquirer.com

07-30-2004, 11:12 AM
I read one mediocre review and one great review.

I find that the best review is the one you make yourself. :lol:

Chip R
07-30-2004, 11:15 AM
I read one mediocre review and one great review.

I find that the best review is the one you make yourself. :lol:
Actually it was one great one and two bad ones. But, you're right. The best review is your own.

07-30-2004, 11:50 AM
Debating whether to see this or the Manchurian Candidate

07-30-2004, 12:42 PM
The Manchurian Candidate looks awesome! Easy choice! You can't go wrong with Denzel!

07-30-2004, 01:24 PM
Debating whether to see this or the Manchurian Candidate

The review that I read this morning that it is one of the best political thrillers to come around in awhile. Very intense.

07-30-2004, 02:44 PM
I just watched the original of "The Manchurian Candidate" a few weeks ago. Really liked it, but I'll probably wait for video to see the new one.

Regardless of reviews, I'll still see "The Village."

07-30-2004, 03:31 PM
I think SHAMalan is the most over-hyped director of the new milennium.

"I know, I know! We can get kids to whisper creepy things! People will eat it up. We'll make millions on everything we release after that!"

I think I'm finally gonna get around to seeing Coffee and Cigarettes instead.

07-30-2004, 07:34 PM
I have to say that except for Signs, I'm not a biggest Shyamalan fan ..... and I LOVE creepy things that go bump in the night. I also like movies that make you think a bit. I believe he tries to do both, but he really doesn't know what he wants to be.

07-30-2004, 09:37 PM
Just got home from seeing it. It was "ok". Ron Howard's daughter was the best thing about the film, she was very good.

07-30-2004, 10:27 PM
Ahh, a review from a layman. Thanks Raisor. Always like to hear the non-critics' opinions.

Bob Borkowski
07-31-2004, 11:35 PM
Are there any more 'word of mouth' reviews from RedsZoners?

08-01-2004, 12:31 AM
Are there any more 'word of mouth' reviews from RedsZoners?

My wife and I went to see it tonight. It was slighltly better than average movie. I actually mentioned to my wife yesterday what I thought the "twist" of the movie would be and lo and behold it was. I won't give it away but if you pay attention to what is said more than what is happening you can figure it out. Opie's (Ron Howard) daughter(I forgot her name) is very good in it,by far the best acting performance in the movie. I give it a 3 star out of 5 rating. :)

08-01-2004, 12:48 AM
Easily one of the worst movies I've seen this year so far. And this coming from a big MNS fan.


I've got to get several things off my chest about this movie...

1) Entering the movie, I had a totally different idea about the movie than I did when I left. From the previews, they made it seem as if the monsters were actual monsters (which is what I wanted to see), but ofcourse you later find out that they are the elders in costumes. Pretty lame if you ask me.

2) How the hell can you think of a plot like this? To quote Ron Burgandy, that's just dumb. Seriously...all throughout the movie, you're picking up this vibe that it's taking place during the 1600's, than when she left Covington Woods, she ends up during the modern times -- so basically a group moved out to the middle of a government park and started their own civilization.

Overall, I left terribly disappointed. I got all hyped up over this, thinking it would be "Signs" or "Sixth Sense" all over again. Instead, I considered leaving early.

08-01-2004, 09:24 AM
Easily one of the worst movies I've seen this year so far. And this coming from a big MNS fan.



so basically a group moved out to the middle of a government park and started their own civilization.


Just a quick note, it wasn't a govmt park. It was owned (and named after) William Hurt's character.

Walker Wildlife Refuge
Walker Security

08-01-2004, 12:49 PM
Oh yeah, thanks for clearing that up for me. But how can you just create your own village, pretty much excluding yourself from today's society, while still living in America without nobody ever knowing about it? Seems kind of farfetched if you ask me.

08-01-2004, 10:08 PM
Oh yeah, thanks for clearing that up for me. But how can you just create your own village, pretty much excluding yourself from today's society, while still living in America without nobody ever knowing about it? Seems kind of farfetched if you ask me.

it's a movie :mhcky21:

08-01-2004, 11:13 PM
If I wanted to see a farfetched movie, I would have gone across the hallway and saw "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." ;)

08-02-2004, 01:50 PM
mmmmm.... white castle...

08-02-2004, 02:30 PM
The reviews of this one are coming in as increasingly poor - I saw The Manchurian Candidate this weekend instead. Unfortunately, it also stank. Anyway. I'll wait for DVD on this one.

08-02-2004, 04:31 PM
The reviews of this one are coming in as increasingly poor - I saw The Manchurian Candidate this weekend instead. Unfortunately, it also stank. Anyway. I'll wait for DVD on this one.

I didn't think The Manchurian Candidate was that bad. It certainly had moments of predictability, but overall I thought it was pretty well done.

08-02-2004, 04:33 PM
The direction was technically proficient, but Demme got crap for performances from his actors, I thought. Everyone seemed wooden to me, and the co-called "emotional moments" didn't resonate. My opinion.

08-02-2004, 04:37 PM
I think "wooden" was how Schreiber's character was supposed to be.

08-17-2004, 12:22 PM
If I wanted to see a farfetched movie, I would have gone across the hallway and saw "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." ;)

I've seen both and Harold and Kumar is better.

That said Mrs. WOY pulled the surprise out before the end and we laughed...... very film school.

08-17-2004, 12:59 PM
The slightly-addled guy who works as a ticket-taker at my favorite theater asks me every time I go there if I've seen this movie yet. He thinks it's great. I just saw Shymalan's "Unbreakable" on cable over the weekend. It was underwhelming, so based on that and the reviews I'm skipping this one.

OTOH, "The Bourne Identity" is a terrific spy/action flick. Never saw the original, but I've seen it twice. :thumbup:

08-18-2004, 10:02 AM
Back then, didn't people sneak off into the woods to go to the bathroom?

If I lived in the woods I'd be a little upset at the villagers constantly soiling up my forrest..."Hey! Do I come walking into your village to relieve myself?"

How would you like it if you were one of "Those We Do Not Speak Of", and you were taking a morning stroll throw the woods with your family, and you're constantly having to remind your kids to watch where they walk? :roll:

Bob Borkowski
01-17-2005, 02:26 PM
I'm bringing up this old thread concerning 'The Village' because of the current thread on the same topic.

Just for reference sake.

I'm here to help! ;)

01-17-2005, 04:04 PM
I purpously didn't read this thread before I saw it, and I missed it in the theaters.

Just saw it last week, and I liked it.

I also really liked Unbreakable, and I haven't met anyone else who did.

It's not a freakin' documentary, it's a movie. And it makes you think. I'm certainly no film critic, but I really like all his work.

Until I just read this, I had no idea Ivy was Ron Howard's daughter. She stole the film, in my opinion.

It wasn't M. Night's best work, but it was still worth watching for me.

01-17-2005, 04:35 PM
II also really liked Unbreakable, and I haven't met anyone else who did. that one's my favorite of Night's movies.

01-17-2005, 05:32 PM
I also really liked Unbreakable, and I haven't met anyone else who did.

That's probably his best movie. I hate sounding pretentious, but I tend to think that people who didn't like it didn't really put any thought into it.