1 August 2004 | irocz78
Brilliantly nuanced, subtle, smart, and expertly played
It's not what you think it is. It's not horrific. It's not gory. It is however a very well written and played thriller drama, with a fantastic love story woven into it to keep it from getting overbearing.
I've seen the 6th Sense and thought it was fantastic, and passed on Signs because I'd already been sick of alien movies by then, though it looks like I should see it.
I went into this film without preconceptions about M. Night Shyamalan or his previous work. I wanted to see a good scary movie. Good it was. Scary it was less. Don't go into it expecting to get horrified, and you won't leave the movie upset about it.
I liked this movie a lot, largely because it caught me by surprise at many points. It's too easy to spoil the movie if I mention why though, so I'll just say you have to see it for yourself.
The acting, particularly by Bryce Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, and William Hurt, was played well with the right subtlety and nuance to make the characters believable.
Howard's role as the smart, emotionally strong tomboy who also happens to be blind was played with an understanding you don't often see in a period role. She was Ivy, and she was living in the late 19th century. She showed an innocence that she could only have gotten away with in this character, and she played it like the time was hers.
There was no doubt of who she was. She conveyed the strength (both her real strength and that which she exuded with a feminine machismo) of her character very well, but never pushing it over the top. She never shouted an emotion; she whispered it, but it was loud and clear. When she spoke about love and fear, you felt it. When she cried she wasn't hamming it up; she exuded grief from eyes, face, and body. She was brilliant, and I can't wait to see her on screen again. She also happens to be incredibly beautiful. Did that cloud my judgment? Go see the movie.
Phoenix continues to upstage his previous roles in every movie I've seen him in. His expressions are classic. The theater laughed more from his modest look of confusion in one scene than I've heard at the last 3 comedies I've watched. He was being more serious than ever, but the comedy of his emotions, however brief, was transmitted perfectly through his stone cold face, only barely showing what he felt inside, but saying everything. Throughout the movie, he was quiet, thoughtful, brave, and pure of spirit, and he said it all in so few words. When he spoke of emotion, it had a power that gripped me. The lines he delivered, though incredibly well written, were meant for him.
Shyamalan's dialogue helped, in that it was rarely obtrusive when spoken by these actors.
About the story: It twists in ways few could imagine. That makes it a bit upsetting. Expect to be let down a little. If you're not looking for gory horror, then you might just love it. When it's not changing directions though it's fantastic in it's subtleties. I can't avoid that word because it applies well to how Shyamalan put this together.
I don't buy many movies, but I will be purchasing this when it comes out on DVD.