The Village

The Village ★★★★½

To best enjoy M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village," the director's tribute to the power of fear, of suggestion, of creating a world safe from danger, an audience must know very little about what it is about to see. A genre-bending symphony of misdirection, the film is built upon a narrative reveal that is as thrilling as it whiplash-inducing. That reveal will not be hinted at here, but it is the cornerstone of an outstanding dramatic and cinematic experience.

Taking place in a bucolic enclave in the woods of Pennsylvania, "The Village" revolves around the citizens of the tiny hamlet who are stalked by creatures in the surrounding environs. The women and men of the village, traditional and upright, are forced to face conflicts from both within and without their home that threaten their peaceful way of life.

Shyamalan builds his film like a piece of horror, ratcheting up mystery and terror at every turn. His characters sell an icy fear as they run head-on with the physical incarnation stalking them and the idea that there is something deadly lurking unseen. The film, however, is not content with being a horror film, and it blossoms excitingly into something else entirely.

The compelling, evocative, and rich narrative is framed by a worthy production with excellent performances. Shyamalan's landscapes bear the rustic and quaint designs of the 19th century and the atmospheric yet verdant dangers of the natural world. Costumes, props, and dialogue all exhibit Shyamalan's idyllic vision.

Bryce Dallas Howard is a revelation in her role as the blind Ivy. Howard communicates both a fearfulness and a fearlessness that define a remarkably brave yet refined character. William Hurt cuts an engaging and powerful figure as a village elder. These two performance set the tone for the film with a visceral and emotional commitment to Shyamalan's tale.

Again, the less that is known going into "The Village," the better. The chilling, provocative, invigorating drama may frustrate some but it will delight others. The narrative tipping point, the cause for the frustration and the delight, is a lighting bolt; and that bolt sets the film alight, creating a piece of work that is bold, robust, and excitingly told.

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