Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Village (2004)

M Night Shyamalan’s fourth film follows the successes of his first three films, the last of which, Signs, was met with less enthusiasm than his debut and follow-up. The Village, however, is a definite return to form for the writer-director.

The story is set in a secluded village, whose inhabitants live in fear of ‘those we do not speak of’, mysterious creatures who inhabit the nearby forest. The film is primarily a thriller, but within this is a tale of romance too. The two genres sit comfortably together, neither ever feeling out of place.

The film’s impressive cast is on absolutely top form here. Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerising as the quiet but courageous Lucius Hunt. William Hurt brings both authority and heart to the role of the village leader. Most impressive of all is Bryce Dallas Howard as the heroine of the film, Ivy. She brings both strength and vulnerability to a wonderful character. Adrien Brody also shines as the tragic Noah.

Shyamalan’s direction effectively creates an atmosphere of mystery. Most noticeable is the number of occasions when the face of a character cannot be seen while they speak, the camera focussing rather on the back of their head. This helps create the sense of secrecy that is dominant in the film. The film looks exquisite, colours and symbolism used prominently and to great effect. James Newton Howard’s score is haunting, helping add to the atmosphere.

The story itself is cleverly woven and includes a twist in the tale as is usual of a Shyamalan’s recent work. The twist works well, while probably guessed by some viewers, is still an effective turn of events.

Though doubted by many, The Village is a touching and thought-provoking film that is well worth taking the time to see.

8/10

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

I thoroughly enjoyed both earlier installments of the Mission: Impossible franchise, even if M:I-2 was rather inferior to its predecessor. For the third installment, JJ Abrams steps into the shoes previously worn by Brian de Palma and John Woo.

Of Abrams’ other work, I’m only familiar with Lost. I’m a big fan of the show so was excited to hear his name attached to this project. He certainly doesn’t disappoint, proving himself to be a wonderful director for the big screen as well as the small screen. There are certain stamps that are similar to his work on Lost, such as the moments in which he chooses to use slow motion. The action is relentless throughout and never becomes dull.

It’s clear Abrams’ has decided to add a more emotional dimension to the film compared to its predecessors and he succeeds in this aspect because it never becomes out of place. The emotional story never over-powers the action, which is the point of the film. Had the more character-driven elements featured too heavily, it would’ve detracted from the over all product.

Tom Cruise is on fine form once again. I’m not sure how the Catholic Church will react to the world’s most famous Scientologist disguising himself as a priest, however. It’s good to see Ving Rhames still on board, as well as two new additions to Ethan’s team - the very able Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maggie Q. Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful as the villain of the film, where a lesser actor would’ve upped the ham-factor, Hoffman instead plays it straight and with a great deal of menace.

Michael Giacchino’s score is at times annoyingly similar to his music for Lost – the first appearance of his piano theme for this film is very similar to a theme used on the TV show. However, his explosive style and frequent use of scratchy strings lends itself well to the film’s fast pace.

This film is perfect popcorn cinema, both engaging and exciting. Hopefully it hails in a summer season of films that will be just as good.

7/10