Bubba Reviews The Village

village.jpgI would like to preface this review by saying that teenage girls are stupid. Or, at the very least, the teenage girls who were sitting next to me at The Village are stupid. Here’s a hint, girls: when a film goes out of its way to repeatedly demonstrate and state outright that a particular character is blind, well hey golly, it’s because that character is, in fact, blind. Suddenly looking up a solid hour into said film and loudly asking “Hey, is she blind? Is that girl blind? What’s up with that? Is she blind?” both reflects very badly on your level of intelligence and is extremely irritating to those people around you who have actually been paying attention to the film they just paid a wildly inflated price to watch. So don’t do it. Yes, she’s blind. Questioned answered. Move along.

I should also point out that while I will not be talking any specific plot points here – you’re better served by not knowing very much going in – I will be talking some about themes within the film, and if you’re the attentive sort what I’ve got to say could give away some significant stuff. So if you don’t want to know, don’t read. Otherwise, continue on in …

Shyamalan, at this point, has become something of a victim to his own success. When The Sixth Sense hit that ending sent people through such a loop that they’ve been looking for Shyamalan to repeat the experience with every successive film. Well, here’s the thing. It’s not possible.

The Sixth Sense shocked people because they didn’t know what to expect and that initial surprise has been downplayed with every successive film – the law of diminishing returns in action – not because the later films aren’t as good, or because the writing isn’t as tight, but because it’s very nearly impossible to be surprised when you’re expecting to be.

This would be a problem if the twists were the point of Shyamalan’s films, but they’re not and honestly I don’t think they ever have been. The Sixth Sense is primarily a coming of age story looking at the pain of growing up different while also pointing out how we take life for granted; Unbreakable is about the nobility of the common man and the importance of being true to yourself; Signs is about the restoration of a man’s faith. The twists are really there as a simple narrative device to keep the audience paying attention to the underlying themes of the film and unfortunately a large segment of Shyamaln’s audience has entirely missed the point and gone looking purely for a shock that Shyamalan has little interest in providing and couldn’t provide even if he did want to.

The Village has received a highly mixed response to this point and every negative review I’ve seen thus far, every single one, revolves around the idea that Shyamalan has failed to surprise them. Well, get over it people. He’s not trying to and if you stop trying to impose what you WANT the film to be over top of what the film actually IS you’ll see that The Village is one impressive piece of work. That’s not to say there aren’t any surprises along the way – there are a few – just that the twists are not the underlying point so if you go in focused purely on those you’re going to miss that point entirely.

At its heart The Village is a morality play: a study on the nature of evil, what lengths people will go to to escape it, and how the very act of trying to escape from evil can both require and perpetuate the very thing you are trying to escape from. You could go as far as to read The Village as a continuation of the religious themes Shyamalan began to raise with Signs, particularly in the handling of Adrien Brody’s character. If you want to go that road watch the film bearing in mind the notion that mental illness is a mark of a special connection to God, a divine innocence, which was a belief common right up until modern times.

That’s pretty much as far as I’m willing to go down the plot and theme road for fear of spoiling the film, so on to other matters …

Shyamalan has assembled here a dead solid group of actors. Any cast that includes the likes of William Hurt – a fairly love or hate sort whom I happen to love – Brendan Gleeson, Sigourney Weaver and Adrien Brody in support roles is going to have high expectations on it and the cast here delivers on all counts. There is a hidden and repressed history between all the key figures and it comes through in quiet ways – looks exchanged, gestures aborted, awkward starts and stops – that are subtly effective. The real keys to the film, though, are the performances of the leads. It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve seen Joaquin Phoenix in anything and it’s good to have him back. He’s the sort of actor who never seems to be actually doing much of anything on screen but he has such a quiet intensity to him that his characters always stick around long after the film has ended. Yeah, he’s good. Absolutely anchoring the film, though, is the stunning performance of Bryce Dallas Howard. Yes, she’s Ron Howard’s daughter, and yes she was a last minute fill in for Kirsten Dunst but put those two things out of your mind. She’s incredible. She absolutely owns this role to the extent that this would be a radically different film, and likely far inferior, if Dunst hadn’t been tied up with Spider-Man 2 and I say that as someone who has a lot of respect for Dunst’s abilities. If she’s smart about choosing her future roles Howard is a major star in the making, emotive, fearless and intelligent.

As far as more practical matters Shyamalan is as close to a perfect technical film maker as is working today. He seldom wastes a frame, the cinematography is beautiful, every shot is perfectly composed and the music and editing are both exactly right. This won’t be the film to do it but it does confirm my opinion that it’s only a matter of time before a Shyamalan film takes home a stack of technical Oscars, cinematography likely being the first.

Is this his best work? No. It’s not the best film I’ve seen on this theme, either. But it is a good film. Very good, just remember not to check your brain at the door on your way into the theater.

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28 thoughts on “Bubba Reviews The Village

  1. This movie rocks. One of my mates told me that it gets really good only at the end, so i was expecting some scary shit all the way through the movie only to be shocked. Well made and great sound effects.

    How can anyone hate this movie.

  2. It is true that the movie lacks entertainment, it is slow at the start but it starts getting intersting. I don’t think it was a bad movie like most critics say it was. It had very good actors and the message is a good one. I think the real problem is that most people don’t seem to want to understand it or analyze it.

  3. Bubba’s review is exactly right. I had not read any reviews of this movie, had no idea of what the plot would be, only went ’cause I’ve liked Shymalan, and it knocked me on my a*&–in a good way. I was flabbergasted at how much I liked it.

    I think if you go into it with no expectations your mind works the way Shymalan intended the viewer’s mind to work. I spent the first hour or so trying to get oriented, grasping for clues, trying to figure out who these people were, what century this was and how they got here and that made me pay close attention and fall into the film’s slow, trance-like pace.

    If you’ve spent much time in the country you can identify with how he plays up the inherent creepiness of the forest, particularly when there’s a clear perimeter between the settled and the wild, the darkness and the light. I agree with Marla Singer. If you don’t like this movie there’s something wrong with you. Probably you’ve been watching too much tv and have butchered your attention span.

  4. Let me first state that had the movie been portrayed for what it was I would have loved it. Since it was not I have to say what a huge let down to coin simons phrase. I was so dissapointed it was like opening the fridge when your half awake grabbing for the milk and taking a big gulp of OJ talk about false adverts… All and All I think M.Night is brilliant.. this movies twists and subplots were brilliant but come on hype the right movie plot please….

  5. I didn’t expect or want an Amish love story. The hype of a scary movie, combined with stunning reviews from the paid critics, all combined to produce a huge letdown. Halfway thru the movie I was still waiting for something to happen. It did. A bunch of ugly cratures with claw-hands, dressed in red robes, storm thru the village and paint red marks on the doors, while the petirifed villagers sit in their cellars. I waited another 10 minutes, and the creatures return. This time they kill some pigs.
    When the blind girl sits down with her beau and says “I’m really a tomboy…”, I bolt for the door.

  6. I have never, in all my life, been able to walk away from a movie and not find some redeeming value….until now. I hate this man because he is at fault triple-fold for this movie. He not only wrote and directed this “film”, but he also produced it. He spent money of his own to put out this 2-hour suckfest. Even with great actors like he had, he couldn’t capitivate my interests. I hope the actors did this movie only by way of condition mandated by the courts as part of their community service. If they got paid well for this movie, then they should burn in hell like they deserve. Someone should stomp M.Night’s ballsack an render him unable to reproduce. So no offspring can ever repeat this injustice of a movie. I want everyone who agrees this movie sucks as much as I believe it does. If I had enough support, I would get an attorney to follow a class-action suit and have everyone get their money back for seeing it. And at the very least gas money that you spent to go see the show. So, in closing, if you ever decide it may be a good idea to see another M.Night movie, DON’T!!…Give your money to charity, go see something else, do something positive with your time, go to the bathroom…speaking of which I have to go take a big M.Night Shyamalan!!!

  7. I had some thoughts about the women elders point raised in earlier posts.

    I guess one of the things to note is that this is a pretty big friggin secret/sham/charade to keep on your own. Especially when you invite three other families in on it. I figure if Walker didn’t include them in some way in this that someone would have eventually cracked or revolted?

    Also, I guess another thing that would factor into that would be the era that all four families were raised in. They decided to move onto the reserve in what, the 70s? So they’ve grown up in this time of great social revolution. Post civil rights, post womans liberation. You have this new social conscious and you likely cannot avoid or dismiss. Especially given the magnitude of what you’re trying to do.

    Meh. I don’t know. It’s not like I think about this stuff in my sleep. Just my thoughts about that point. Tah.

  8. Okay, I don’t know why people don’t appreciate this movie. The only thing that even slightly botherered me in this film, is why I didn’t get the ending sooner… which is irrelevant to how much I enjoyed this film anyway.

    Like I wondered why there the elders consisted of women, especially in the 1900s… confused the living daylights out of me, and then it all made sense.

    The plot is genius, I mean, it reminds me of a tad of 1984(the book), a body of people manipulating others under a seemingly utopian society. I understand that some people might have hated the slow pacing or why they had to speak the whey the did, but the pacing helped develop the mood/atmosphere of the village itself, it’s innocence, vulnerbility and simplicity, and the way they spoke, I’m guessing they used passive language to eliminate the corruption that exists in current dialect. People swear and curse all the time, the whole point of the village was to escape from society and the lack of morals within them… just like in 1984 and New Speak. If you can’t express anger/hate/disgust in language than you cannot express those things in real life. It limits your scope which is what they wanted.

    It was good, just because you got some “twists” and he didn’t surpise you, doesn’t mean the movie isn’t good and the acting wasn’t solid. If this wasn’t good enough for you, maybe you should have just watched Harold & Kumar. Which is pretty funny I might add :p

    meh just another stupid rant.

  9. Very disappointed in this movie…althought it was well done cinematically that is about where it ends…the so called plot twists were very predictable…but I must say the end and where they are I did not see…but when I did I thought….What a stupid movie….many people walked out of this movie and I wish I was one of them but I kept thinking it had to get better…well it didn’t…don’t waste your money…..

  10. It’s pretty immature to let things deteriorate into a name calling fest (which has happened in quite a few posts now). While I disagree with you Jason, I respect your opinion. Nobody’s convincing anybody by name calling. It’s sophmoric. So everyone cut it out. Please. (rant over)

  11. awww, did that make u feel better, jason? i bet u were panicking for a bit! “o no, marla’s right, but i hate being wrong! i have to make myself feel stronger and make others smaller!” not only do u take time out of ur life to bash movies but on the side u like to bash people whom u dont even know! wow, how does it feel to have no one look up to u? haha, ur a little funny too! u called me a name…what was it? o ya.. a Heffer? that was really sweet, i bet ur a whiz with the lady’s….or men!

  12. Wow Marla…..you sure your not dating Rodney. I didn’t think there were two people here that both feel that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Your every bit as f’ed up as he is…..develop viewing skills……that sounds kinda like a lonely,over weight heffer…..guess you’ll see more than i will. Good luck with that.

  13. There are other things to a movie than expecting a surprise ending. like perhaps the emotional levels Night puts in his characters in every film, if in fact thats what ur looking for, things that happen in every one of his movies. i think all those people that where so excited about the “surprise ending” really suck at living becuase they raised their expectations and missed the plot twist at the end and now they’re claiming on every movie discussion board that the village sucks when really they are the ones that suck. if the end is all u think about during the movie then u miss the beginning and middle. i am a huge fan of shyamalans films and i know all the elements that have become traditional in his films but that didnt keep me from being reborn again in the village with new story, new scares, new plot twist. So for all you simple minded, media, consumers, there was a plot twist and it didnt suck, i think ur all in denial because u liked all of Nights other films and sub consciously wanted this one to fail but it didnt and u still have to race to ur computers after seeing the movie and being proven wrong and need to feel significant and superior so u bash the film on the net, and if u say ur movie buffs just cuz u come on this site and type a few lines then maybe u should develope some movie veiwing skills and think before u speak.

  14. Is expecting a plot twist…my fault or the director’s. That’s what his directing style is…..he painted himself into a corner…why?…..because…you expect that there will be one and everyone will compare it to Sense and Unbreakable. So he has to out do the others ending’s or do a movie without one…but we will bitch about there not being one….he’s stuck in a circle….unless he does something that can’t be compared to the other films. But then…..isn’t the studio betting on it….they put his name in the title work…he is the star of the movie……wow…I’m getting dizzy…..point is…..to one degree or another….what was fresh is now stale.

  15. Wow, DMD. You’ve found a new and unusual way to waste time. If you want I could help make you a logo for the site. Maybe something that flashes different colors. Or how about a timer that goes up the longer you’re on the site and the person who gets the highest time hates the movie the most. Or maybe I’m just taking it too far. Hmmmm.

  16. I have never been moved to register a domain name and create a website expressing my hatred for a movie. Until now. This movie is so bad that I am angry that I wasted $10 to see it. The movie is not scary and the plot twist was inane. Also, if this movie is supposed to somehow critique the Bush administration (elders controlling the town with fear, the color red keeps people inside, etc), it fails on that front, too. This movie has insulted my intelligence. http://www.thevillagesucks.com

  17. Buba and I were chatting about the Village the other day. and although M night makes some solid movies.. there are going to be people who think the movie sucks because… now think about this sentence for a second….. the plot-twist -They Were Expecting-, wasn’t good enough.

  18. I haven’t got to see the movie yet….had a 6 year old with me….had to see kid friendly flicks….but I wrote the comment below last week hoping that it would not be true…but from your comments…it appears that I was right:

    He is my problem….this film has a big “Suck” factor about it…..can’t put my finger on it put it’s got this suck factor learking in the shadows…..plus I get this feeling that the twist ending will be something “not creatures” but more like a prank or experment on the villagers??

    Posted by: jason at July 26, 2004 07:36 PM

  19. todd, I agree with you on the most parts – though I found the editing was a bit loose in a couple of parts. though the cinematography, pacing, sound and acting were right on all accounts.

  20. things i liked….i liked how there was no talking at the beginning of the movie, i liked bryce dallas howards acting abilities, i liked adrian brody, i liked how m.night had his little part in the movie….what i didnt like had nothing to do with the quality of the film but the annoyances that take place during the viewing such as cell phones ringing and then people talking on the phone, people in front sharing thoughts about how they think the movie is gonna end and, going to see the movie opening night and having the tickets sold out and watching 50 first dates as a last resort for late night entertainment. I would like to watch the movie once again but in the viewing pleasures of my own home with my sofa and cheap beverages.

  21. The thing I absolutely loved about this movie… is that we didn’t have to see the creatures to be scared – the mere shadow of their red cloaks were enough to send shivers down your spine…

  22. For the last few weeks I was purposely trying to put out of my mind what the story might be about and what the twists might be but the curiosity was still there. Then, a little before I went tonight I decided to put the twist issue out of my head completely and attend to the story and filmmaking. It made my movie experience probably 100 times better than it would have been. I loved this film and was blown away by Bryce Dallas Howard (and slightly attracted as well, I’m about the same age so I’m no sicko…not that you were thinking that, anyway…). I was scared when I should have been, I felt sympathy when I was supposed to, I’m rarely so effectively “manipulated” by a film so I have to say, Shyamalan knows when to pull and has a wonderful subtlety to his style. I agree with Bubba 100%. I walked out feeling good. That is why I love movies.

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