All of M. Night Shyamalan's films are very different, while all being somewhat the same. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and his latest brilliant offering, The Village all have supernatural elements, they all have magnificent endings, they all have some great subtle humor and they all take place in or around his hometown of Philadelphia. His films all tackle much different subject matter, though, while keeping these similar aspects intact. The Village, for example, is his first period flick, but after watching this wonderful film, it certainly won't be his last great film.
The Village starts out with the unfortunate death of a young boy because of the lack of proper medical supplies. He was only 7 years old, and his death sparks a debate whether the people that reside within the village that lies within Covington Woods to finally leave for "the towns" if only to upgrade their medicines. There's a problem, though, in that no one that lives within the village is allowed to leave, because the creatures that live in the woods don't take kindly to trespassers. When one of the villagers, Lucious Hunt (Phoenix) becomes adamant about leaving the village, the warning signs start to appear, and the whole village could be in great danger.
One of the great things about Shyamalan's work, is that he has such a keen grasp about what audiences really want to see. He has become famous for the "twist ending" and now it seems that going to his movies is like a guessing game to what the big twist will be. What is really great about The Village, is that it seemed like he could anticipate what most people would guess that the big twist would be, so he gives us what we would've guessed, and then gives us an even bigger twist that we couldn't even begin to imagine. It is really just some masterful writing and probably the best overall story so far this year.
This is probably the least star-studded, A-list cast of all of Night's work, but the acting is top-notch here. Joaquin Phoenix is marvelous here is the subdued Lucious Hunt. I'm really surprised that Phoenix isn't a bigger star than he is, because I think he's a great actor, and has been for some time. Sigourney Weaver gives a very nice performance as well, as Lucius' mother, Alice. William Hurt does a fine job as village leader Edward Walker, but the two performances I enjoyed the most were from Bryce Dallas Howard and last year's Best Actor Oscar winner, Adrien Brody.
Howard, daughter of director/ex-Opie Ron Howard, gives a remarkable performance as blind villager Ivy Walker. What's even more remarkable about this performance is that this is basically her first big role, and she was given the role, after Kirsten Dunst dropped out, by Shyamalan without even an audition. Even if you're not a Shyamalan fan, Howard's performance is well worth seeing. After Brody's Oscar-winning performance for The Pianist, his role here as Noah Percy, the, pardon the pun, "village idiot" was interesting to see. It's almost like watching Rory Cochrane as the stoned Slater in Dazed and Confused, and then watching him as the Zen-like Lucas in Empire Records. The characters are so vastly different, but performed wonderfully, just like Brody's turns in The Pianist and The Village. I'm sure his performance will annoy many people, just because of his character's nature, and I'll admit it did annoy me a bit too, but he still did a great job here as Noah.
Shyamalan's script is definitely Oscar-worthy, with some wonderful dialogue, humor, suspense, and of course, the mind-bending ending. I know some were slightly disappointed in the ending of Signs, because it wasn't as big of a twist as his first two flicks, but this ending will cause the jaws to hit the floor. It's just plain brilliant, folks, and I don't know what else to say about it.
Night's direction is superb as well. With all of the accolades he receives for the thriller elements of his flicks, I think in the comedic parts of his movies, he captures these humorous moments better than any other comedic helmer out there, because he relies on his actors' subtle nuances to provide for humor more than any one-liner could provide. There is just a hilarious scene here where Ivy's sister, Kitty, played by Judy Greer is merrily spewing out her love for Lucius, while he just stands there, stiff as a board and scared straight. There is nothing funny in the actual dialogue, especially since Lucius says nothing, but just how he captured that scene provided for many a laugh. I don't see Shyamalan doing any slapstick comedy movies any time soon, but I don't think his work with the comedy in his flicks gets enough credit.
The Village is a movie about loyalty, tradition, fear and love. This is one of the best movies of the year right now. M. Night Shyamalan, you win, yet again!