The burden on M. Night Shyamalan's shoulders weighs heavier with each film he directs. Viewers want to be surprised by a twist, or outguess the plot before it reaches the third act. Yet, his streak of directorial perfection continues with his fourth feature following his breakthrough smash 'The sixth sense'. The minimalist, deliberate approach to directing is still at work, shunning the urgency of cotemporary directors. That is to be expected in any work by Shyamalan. What has been staggeringly overlooked this time however is the relevance of the story itself, which transcends the trivial limits of a well executed finale or a suitable surprise revelation, and makes a powerful statement regarding the nature of fear and colour coded warning levels, in use today to incite intimidation and tighten the noose of control over others.
It is difficult to discuss the storyline in any detail without giving away a sufficient amount of the plot, but it goes something like this. In a secluded, remote village, sometime during the late nineteenth century, dwell a small close knit community who have broken off all contact with nearby towns. They consist of the village elders, the village folk and even a village idiot, Noah Percy (Adrien Brody). Their patriarch, Edward Walker (William Hurt), one of the select elders, silently adores Alice Hunt (Sigourney Weaver) mother of Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) himself a quite young man who yearns to venture outside the village in an attempt to stock medicine and other goods. Lucius feels powerfully attracted to Walker's blind daughter Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), a feisty woman adept at speaking her mind with adoring clarity. They, along with the others in their commune, are fearful of creatures draped in red that live on the outskirts of their land and occasionally drift into their region on a terror rampage.
There is romance blossoming, mingled with the threat of the unknown and this helps carry the movie admirably for the first half. But then something happens, which I dare not reveal, that sets into motion, a series of events that lead, like clockwork, to the inevitable conclusion where revelations are made. For most, this will either make or break the movie, which is a shame because there is more depth to everything than just the trademark Shyamalan twist. The problem arises with people expecting some discovery about the creatures, as the trailers seemed to have prepared them for, or a jolting truth about the situation, but Shyamalan has bigger and grander, intentions. Disguised as a kind of social commentary, this is the work of a storyteller at his finest. The use of colour is an allegory for fear, and fear itself is a tool that works with ignorance to create submission. It's easy for many to feel short-changed by the end, but this is a more well thought and insightful work and the scope of Shyamalan as a writer cannot be ignored.
As Ivy, Bryce Howard, daughter of director Ron, outshines the more experienced cast. Her intense and focused performance is deserving of recognition. Shyamalan regular James Newton Howard delivers a strong violin heavy score that adjusts itself for frightening scares or milder, tender moments. Any movie that makes its audience sit up, take notice and then think long after the credits roll cannot be regarded as a sham. This is not an ego trip for the director, as many accuse it of being. It mocks our very existence and is certain to enflame many who look for plot holes or outguess the proceedings. More power to them then, but to miss this is to deny yourself the experience of one of this summers best movie. - Faizan Rashid