Defending the Village

Something's wrong with the critical consensus for M. Night Shyamalan's new movie The Village. I usually check the reviews before I shell out my eight dollars. But The Village is getting one- and two-star ratings and I went to see it anyway... mainly on the strength of Shyamalan's previous efforts. I wasn't disappointed.

Enjoying film requires the suspension of disbelief. But people seem to view Shyamalan's movies as some sort of challenge. A game. A battle to guess the plot twists before he reveals them. But struggling to anticipate the turns in the plot is defeatist. It's like jeering at the inevitable boogymen that pop up throughout a haunted house. The point of film is to be entertained, not to establish superiority... either of bravery or of wits.

Much has been made for example of the logical flaws in Signs, involving hydrophobic aliens invading a planet that's 71 percent water. But Shyamalan understands, like Steven Spielberg during the writing of the unlikely climax to Jaws, that if he has the audience in his hands during the first half of the story, they'll follow him no matter where he leads at the end.

He also understands that movies aren't always about plot. Both Signs and The Village are about emotion. That's why they strike such a powerful chord with me. Both films have an ephemeral quality that depends on the darkness and isolation of the theater. Most of the critics seem to be writing their reviews under the harsh light of day.

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