Film (2004). Touchstone Pictures presents a Blinding Edge Productions/Scott Rudin production. Written and directed by M Night Shyamalan, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson. 103 minutes. Colour.
An enigmatic preindustrial community menaced by half-glimpsed Monsters haunting the surrounding woods is shocked by an attempted murder, prompting the victim's blind betrothed (Howard) to brave the woods in search of medicines from the rumoured "towns" beyond; the settlement proves to be a generation-long experiment in Utopian living, and the monsters a hoax maintained by the village elders to deter breaches of the Keep.
Shyamalan's regular strengths and absurdities blend to notable effect in this atmospheric tale of Conceptual Breakthrough, whose irretrievable banality and bathos is offset to a considerable extent by impressive production design and direction; very fine performances from Phoenix, Hurt, and Howard (in her breakout role); and what by Hollywood standards is a daring violation of the unities of hero, audience rapport, and credits order, as the first half's focus on Phoenix's character proves to be ingenious misdirection. [NL]