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Rated 2.98 stars
by 2914 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
All We Have To Fear . . .
by Betty Jo Tucker

What’s this? Frightmaster M.Night Shyamalan taking on a love story? Never thought I’d see that happen, but I’m glad it did. The Village is, at heart, a tender romance played out in a very suspenseful setting. Fortunately, the Shyamalan touch shines through in the eerie atmosphere of a secluded 19th century village surrounded by mysterious woods where unspeakable creatures dwell. But this time, while telling a story of how fear can affect a community, the talented filmmaker also explores themes of innocence and the power of love.

“It was new for me to include elements of romance in my writing along with the unknown supernatural elements that audiences have enjoyed in my past films,” Shyamalan admits. “This movie is ultimately about the power of what love can do to create things, and what it can overcome.”

Joaquin Phoenix (Signs) and newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard, who play the romantic leads, make a fascinating couple. Shyamalan wrote the role of Lucius Hunt, a curious and determined loner, for Phoenix -- so the actor’s total grasp of that character comes as no surprise. But Howard is a revelation as Ivy Walker, the courageous young blind woman who risks everything to save her loved one. Projecting a maturity beyond her years, Howard delivers a mesmerizing performance. Thanks to Phoenix and Howard, the love scenes between Lucius and Ivy come across as sweet and subdued, just like one would imagine happening in a more innocent time period.

In fact, all the relationships in The Village seem quite genuine. William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody, Cherry Jones and Brendan Gleeson excel as members of the unsophisticated community. It’s like they’ve known each other forever. They’re all good actors, I know, but Shyamalan’s insistence that his principal cast members participate in a late 19th century “Boot Camp” -- which lasted for three weeks -- to prepare for the film probably helped them get into their roles even more deeply. “I wanted to form a real community of people where they needed to rely on one another for survival,” Shyamalan declares.     

One of the DVD bonus features includes several scenes of this pre-production experience as well as comments from the actors about what it meant to them. Howard states she was deeply touched when Phoenix made her a walking staff and presented it to her before filming began. Weaver jokes about enjoying such chores as plowing, which she calls “surfing on dirt.”       

Other DVD bonus materials are also worth checking out. They include: “Bryce’s Diary,” which features an excited Howard reading from the personal diary she kept while making the film; four deleted scenes with Shyamalan explaining why they were left out; a behind-the-scenes feature containing information on shooting, casting, editing, scoring and “Those We Don’t Speak Of.”     

Don't worry, Shyamalan fans. Despite its emphasis on romance and community behavior, The Village is a very spooky movie. Like all Shyamalan’s films, it’s filled with surprises. One stabbing scene was such a shock to me, I almost jumped out of my chair. And the weird sounds made by the creatures lurking in the woods frightened me even more than the scary music from Jaws. Finally, I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but be prepared for a TRIPLE twist ending. You might not like it, but you’ll have a heck of a ride getting there.

(Released by Touchstone Home Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for a scene of violence and frightening situations. Bonus DVD features not rated.)

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