The film received mixed reviews, with critics especially divided about the plausibility and payoff of the ending. The film gave composer James Newton Howard his fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
Residents of the small, isolated Pennsylvania village of Covington, in the year 1897, live in fear of nameless creatures in the surrounding woods and have constructed a large barrier of oil lanterns and watch towers that are constantly manned to keep watch. After the funeral of a seven-year-old boy, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) asks the village elders for permission to pass through the woods to get medical supplies from neighboring towns. However, his request is denied. Later, his mother Alice (Sigourney Weaver) scolds him for wanting to visit the neighboring towns which the villagers describe as wicked. The Elders also appear to have secrets of their own and keep physical mementos hidden in black boxes, the contents of which are reminders of the evil and tragedy they left behind when they left the towns. After Lucius makes a short venture into the woods, the creatures leave warnings in the form of splashes of red paint on all the villagers' doors.
Ivy Elizabeth Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), the blind daughter of the chief Elder Edward Walker (William Hurt), informs Lucius that she has strong feelings for him and he returns her affections. They arrange to be married, but Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), a young man with an apparent developmental and learning disability, stabs Lucius with a knife, because he is in love with Ivy himself. Noah is locked in a room until a decision is made about his fate.
Edward goes against the wishes of the other Elders, agreeing to let Ivy pass through the forest and seek medicine for Lucius. Before she leaves, Edward explains that the creatures inhabiting the woods are actually members of their own community wearing costumes and have continued the legend of monsters in an effort to frighten and detract others from attempting to leave Covington. He also explains that the costumes are based upon tales of real creatures who once lived in the woods. Ivy and two young men (unaware of the Elders' farce) are sent into the forest, but both protectors abandon Ivy almost immediately, believing the creatures will kill them, but spare her out of pity. While traveling through the forest, one of the creatures suddenly attacks Ivy. She tricks it into falling into a deep hole to its death. However, the creature is actually Noah wearing one of the costumes found in the room where he had been locked away after stabbing Lucius.
Ivy eventually finds her way to the far edge of the woods, where she encounters a high, ivy-covered wall. After she climbs over the wall, a park ranger named Kevin (Charlie Hofheimer) spots Ivy and is shocked to hear that she has come out of the woods. The woods are actually the Walker Wildlife Preserve, named for Ivy's family, and it is actually the modern era instead of the 19th century as the villagers believe. Ivy asks for help and gives Kevin a list of medicines that she must acquire, also giving him a golden pocket watch as payment.
During this time, it is revealed that the village was actually founded in the late 1970s. Edward Walker, then a professor of American history at the University of Pennsylvania, approached other people he met at a grief counseling clinic following the murder of his father and asked them to join him in creating a place where they would sustain themselves and be protected from any aspect of the outside world. When they agreed, Covington was built in the middle of a wildlife preserve purchased with Edward's family fortune. The head park ranger Jay (M. Night Shyamalan) tells Kevin that the Walker Estate pays the government to keep the entire wildlife preserve beneath a no-fly zone and also funds the ranger corps who ensure no outside force disrupts the preserve. Kevin secretly retrieves medicine from his ranger station and Ivy returns to the village with the supplies, unaware of the truth of the situation.
During her absence, the Elders secretly open their black boxes, each containing mementos from their lives in the outside world, including items related to their past traumas. The Elders gather around Lucius's bed when one of the townsfolk informs them that Ivy has returned and that she killed one of the monsters. Edward points out to Noah's grieving mother that his death will allow them to continue deceiving the rest of the villagers that there are creatures in the woods, and all the Elders take a vote to continue living in the village. Ivy comes in and tells Lucius that she has returned.Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy Elizabeth Walker
Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius Hunt
Adrien Brody as Noah Percy
William Hurt as Edward Walker
Sigourney Weaver as Alice Hunt
Brendan Gleeson as August Nicholson
Cherry Jones as Mrs. Clack
Celia Weston as Vivian Percy
Frank Collison as Victor
Jayne Atkinson as Tabitha Walker
Judy Greer as Kitty Walker
Fran Kranz as Christop Crane
Liz Stauber as Beatrice
Michael Pitt as Finton Coin
Jesse Eisenberg as Jamison
M. Night Shyamalan as Jay
Charlie Hofheimer as Kevin Lupinski
Joey Anaya and Kevin Foster as Those We Don't Speak Of
The film was originally titled The Woods, but the name was changed because a film in production by director Lucky McKee, The Woods (2006), already had that title. Like other Shyamalan productions, this film had high levels of secrecy surrounding it, to protect the expected twist ending that was a known Shyamalan trademark. Despite that, the script was stolen over a year before the film was released, prompting many "pre-reviews" of the film on several Internet film sites and much fan speculation about plot details. The village seen in the film was built in its entirety in one field outside Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. An adjacent field contained an on-location temporary sound stage. Production on the film started in October 2003, with delays because some scenes needing fall foliage could not be shot because of a late fall season. Principal photography was wrapped up in mid-December of that year. In April and May 2004, several of the lead actors were called back to the set. Reports noted that this seemed to have something to do with a change to the film's ending, and, in fact, the film's final ending differs from the ending in a stolen version of the script that surfaced a year earlier; in the original version, the film ends after Ivy climbs over the wall and it is revealed to the audience that the film takes place in the present day.
The Village polarized critics. It earned a "rotten" certification at Rotten Tomatoes with only 43% giving it a positive appraisal, based on 206 reviews and an average score of 5.5/10. The consensus reads, "The Village is appropriately creepy, but Shyamalan's signature twist ending disappoints." At Metacritic, the film holds a score of 44 out of 100, based on 40 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film one star and wrote: "The Village is a colossal miscalculation, a movie based on a premise that cannot support it, a premise so transparent it would be laughable were the movie not so deadly solemn ... To call the ending an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It's a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It was all a dream. It's so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore." The film is listed on Ebert's "Most Hated" list. There were also comments that the film, while raising questions about conformity in a time of "evil," did little to "confront" those themes. Slate's Michael Agger commented that Shyamalan was continuing in a pattern of making "sealed-off movies that [fall] apart when exposed to outside logic."
The movie had a number of admirers. Critic Jeffrey Westhoff commented that though the film had its shortcomings, these did not necessarily render it a bad movie, and that "Shyamalan's orchestration of mood and terror is as adroit as ever". Philip Horne of The Daily Telegraph in a later review noted "this exquisitely crafted allegory of American soul-searching seems to have been widely misunderstood".
The soundtrack by Howard has also been widely praised, and was nominated by the American Film Institute as one of the Best Film Scores and the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
Simon & Schuster, publishers of the 1995 young adults' book Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix, claimed that the film had taken ideas from the book. The book had a plot which features a village whose inhabitants are secretly forced to live in the 1830s when the year is actually 1996. The plot of Shyamalan's movie had several similarities to the book. They both involve a village, which is actually a park in the present day (Shyamalan uses a late nineteenth-century village), have young heroines on a search for medical supplies, and both have adult leaders bent on keeping the children in their village from discovering the truth. In Haddix's novel, the truth is that the village is a genetic experiment; in the movie, that the adults had decided to withdraw from the outside world.
No lawsuit was ever filed over the similarity.
The film grossed $114 million in the U.S., and $142 million in international markets. Its worldwide box office totalled $256 million, the tenth highest grossing PG-13 movie of 2004.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on January 11, 2005. This is currently the only M. Night Shyamalan film that does not have a Blu-ray version. The Village was also the last Shyamalan film to be released on VHS.2005 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
Won - Top Box Office Film — James Newton Howard
2004 Academy Awards (Oscars)
Nominated - Best Original Score — James Newton Howard
2005 10th Empire Awards
Nominated - Best Actress — Bryce Dallas Howard
Nominated - Best Newcomer — Bryce Dallas Howard
Nominated - Best Director — M. Night Shyamalan
2005 Evening Standard British Film Awards
Won - Best Technical/Artistic Achievement — Roger Deakins
2005 MTV Movie Awards
Nominated - Best Breakthrough Female Performance — Bryce Dallas Howard
2005 Motion Picture Sound Editors (Golden Reel Award)
Nominated - Best Sound Editing in a Feature: Music, Feature Film — Thomas S. Drescher
2004 Online Film Critics Society Awards
Nominated - Best Breakthrough Performance — Bryce Dallas Howard
2005 Teen Choice Awards
Nominated - Choice Movie Scary Scene — Bryce Dallas Howard, Ivy Walker waits at the door for Lucius Hunt.
Nominated - Choice Movie: Thriller
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
The film's score was composed by James Newton Howard, and features solo violinist Hilary Hahn. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, but lost to Finding Neverland.Track listing
- "Noah Visits"
- "What Are You Asking Me?"
- "The Bad Color"
- "Those We Don't Speak Of"
- "Will You Help Me?"
- "I Cannot See His Color"
- "The Gravel Road"
- "Race to Resting Rock"
- "The Forbidden Line"
- "The Vote"
- "It Is Not Real"
- "The Shed Not to Be Used"