291 of 333 people found the following review helpful
Fool me four times? Not bad, M. Night Shyamalan
, August 3, 2004
There is so much bad word of mouth out there about "The Village" that I had to go see it by myself because nobody wanted to see it with me. I avoided all the publicity about M. Night Shyamalan's fourth film so that I could make up my own mind. Besides, if the whole point is to see whether he can fool us again, why would you want to know anything on the chance that it would be too much? If the film gets spoiled by a review, then that is hardly giving the film a chance. Even when Penn & Teller show you how they do their trick, they get to do the trick first.
The Village is located in a valley surrounding by Covington Woods. The year is 1897 according to the tombstone we see at the start of the film. As we are introduced to life in the community we learn about the strange rules under which its inhabitants live. If you did not read the rules on the poster for "The Village," they are enacted during the first part of the film. Red is a bad color that cannot be seen because it attracts them, while mustard yellow is a color of safety. No one can enter the woods because that is where those of whom no one speaks will get you. If the warning bell is sounded, then head for the cellars in your houses immediately because they are coming.
A council of elders run the village, and their leader is clearly Edward Walker (William Hurt). They set the tone for the village, but in the wake of the death of a young child because of sickness, young Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) wants to leave the village, travel through the forbidden woods, and bring back medicine from one of the towns on the other side. Lucius is uncommonly brave. The young boys test their courage by standing on a stump on the border between the village and the woods, and Lucius is the record holder. But his courage could doom the Village by breaking the truce that has held between the two sides for many years.
Most of that you can pick up from the trailers for "The Village." Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius is clearly the hero of the film and you know know that there is no reason to set up these rules if they are not going to get violated as a major plot development in the film. Beyond that it is difficult to say anything that would not interfer with your chance to enjoy the film on its own terms. However, there are two things I can say.
First, given that he has backed himself in a corner it terms of always having to come up with some big secret twist for all of his films, Shyamalan does try to come up with something to meet the raised expectations. You can certainly decide afterwards that the secret was not big enough or good enough, but unless the film has been spoiled for you I cannot believe you are going to see everything that is coming. As we know from "Signs" and the rest of his films if there is one thing Shyamalan can do it is that everything fits together in the end.
Second, as I started to get into this film I decided that the character I really liked was Ivy Walker, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. That is the one name that appears in the opening credits that I did not recognize (remember, I avoided all the publicity) and so when it turned out that Bryce was playing Ivy, and that the actress is the daughter of Ron Howard I was surprised (no wonder she looked familiar without my recognizing her). This is a breakthrough performance, which may well be the only thing that everybody who sees "The Village" is going to agree on.
Early on in this film I decided what I wanted this film to be, not expecting that it would actually end up being that, so when it did I was both surprised and gratified. Since I never put much significance into the meaning of Shyamalan's movie twists, focusing instead on whether or not I could be fooled, "The Village" certainly meets the criteria. He got me. Again.
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