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The Village (2004)
Well directed, but suffers from horrendous structure - rent Vertigo instead
M. Night's films have been inconsistent at best. Sixth Sense was stellar, Unbreakable was very good, Signs was unwatchable bad. Now we have The Village, assembling his most acclaimed cast and one of his more complex concepts (the only concept he's done more complex than "fake village" is "real-life superheroes" if complexity is to be judged on amount of letters or syllables--and both trump "ghosts" and "aliens").
This movie had more potential in its concept than I can comfortably admit, having been panning it for months now. The male and female romantic leads acted well, though I did not believe for a second that the woman who played Ivy was blind, as did Adrien Brody. The rest of the cast was unimpressive, which is disappointing when you have actors like William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver on screen together. The direction is more skilled than in any of Shyamalan's past works, and clocking in at two jumps and one chill, this has put me on edge more than his previous thrillers (Signs, by the way, comes in the negative numbers there as I could actually time how long it was until the next "jump").
The real problem comes in the structure of the script. What should have been the end of the second movement of a three or four movement film, Shyamalan here turns into the punchline at the end of a two-hour-long joke he plays on the audience. A few mis-steps in structure and a whole bunch of flaws in logic cost this film dearly. First and foremost, why make Adrien Brody's character mentally retarded when it would be far more interesting and compelling to see how the Elders deal with an actual, intentional crime being committed inside their village by someone who is aware of what he or she is doing? Second, why end the film just when it begins to get interesting--when we find out what's really beyond the woods? Instead, why not let it go another forty five minutes and give us a chance to get to really know the Elders, as well as Ivy, and see the way they interact with each other change in light of recent events? Thirdly, why waste so much time on a plot line that goes nowhere and has so little to do with the characters? Where in The Sixth Sense, the thriller aspect flowed naturally from the characters and their relation to each other, by the end of The Village, the thriller aspect (the storyline involving the monsters) feels disjointed and ultimately unfulfilled.
I firmly hold that M. Night Shyamalan has a talented storyteller somewhere inside of him, but I also hold that said storyteller will not emerge until Shyamalan gets over the need to make every film he does an attempt to take the torches from Hitchcock and Rod Sterling.
Rather than blow the money for this at a cineplex, rent Vertigo instead. It's got all the same stuff that this one tries to have - romance, humor, valor, suspense, mystery, jumps - but does it a lot more fluidly.