21 August 2004 | almonetts
an interesting concept but the film fails to deliver on the premise
M. Night Shyamalan, presents an interesting concept but miserably fails to deliver on the promise of an excellent trailer. Then again, the trailer did do its job i.e. get my but into the seat. However, the primary reason for the movie's trapping lies squarely on the shoulder of its director. Undoubtedly a talent, he can set perfect moods from carefully constructed scenes and camera angles (see Signs) and has modernized Hitchcock's style of movie making. However, audiences have come to expect a surprise ending or twist. As such many are going to head into the theatre with the intention of figuring out what is the twist. You can almost do that immediately in the first few frames. If you miss it, there is a likelihood that you'll be bothered and miss the true revelation of the movie (which lies in one of the best star making turns in recent movie history).
Given the above, I must be vague. The movie revolves a community which is almost Amish in its characteristics. The villagers are self sufficient in their world. It features a great cast led by William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver and Brendon Gleeson. However, the talent is so wastefully squandered with too rare, fleeting moments of interaction, notably with Weaver/Hurt and Brody/Phoenix. That star making turn mentioned above, is the acting debut of Bryce Dallas Howard, the daughter of director Ron Howard, who plays Hurt's daughter and girlfriend of Phoenix. She reminds me an awful lot of Kate Hudson in "Almost Famous"....very sweet, idealistically driven, and strong willed. Each time she takes the screen you can't help being transfixed. Although a supporting character, the movie thankfully belongs to her.
The elders of the community (Hurt, Weaver, Gleeson and others) have prohibited the villagers to venture into the surrounding woods, as there are "Creatures of which we do not speak" living within. They wear red hoods and red is a color which they are not allowed to cast their eyes upon. The community is in turn paralyzed by fear. As history would have it, there has been bad, spilt blood with these creatures and a truce was called. The promise of the truce, is that neither party is not allowed to set foot into the other's territory, or else it will be considered void. Sounds ominous and promising and there are a few genuine scenes which make you jump out of your skin. There are a handful of moments when this movie could have kicked into high gear. However, the plot becomes so transparently thin, and the movie is let down by the acknowledgment that it could have been so much more.