"The Village" takes people in different ways; some found it intriguing, others hated it for a surprise ending that seemed borrowed or transparent. I was surprised at the revelations at the film's end, and enjoyed the whole premise, because the director has crafted a complete and atmospheric setting that appeals to someone willing to think a little bit.
Whether or not one sees the plot-twist coming, it's no great fault to ask the question: is the idea of a community in the pastoral embrace of nineteenth century America, with its formal speech and folksy traditions, a worthwhile pursuit in a bewildering, modern time? Moviegoers do not question whether the worlds of Lucas or Tolkien can actually exist - they accept the idea and enjoy the details. Similarily, M. Night Shyamalan asks us to think about how our society (or any society) holds itself together for the benefit of all. In the village, people abide by customs that define conduct and action. There exist contrivances to sustain people's beliefs and adherence to custom - as there are in any society. So whether or not the menace surrounding the village is real, the larger point is that people make degrees of sacrifices to keep what is good in their lives.
A good film can, in the right way, stimulate questions long after the closing credits have rolled. Some viewers questioned how it was that the villagers could create a world without modern conveniences, even asking how the talismanic yellow hoods were manufactured without advanced textiles. Interesting questions, but completely beside the point. One should ask, would the village "evolve," as all societies do? Or, how would the elders reveal to their descendants the secret that keeps the village intact? Perhaps, after all the angles are examined, the best way to view "The Village" is as a set-piece, existing in time and yet timeless.
The acting is fine overall. I think that William Hurt excels at this sort of restrained, yet passionate character. Joaquin Phoenix proves that he can dial into a deep reservoir of emotion without resorting to hysterics. Adrian Brody is excellent as the disturbed young man whose eccentricities redefine the term "village idiot." The best acting comes from Bryce Dallas Howard, whose subtlety and emotion hints at even better work to come. The dialog, contrary to some opinions, is part of what makes this village world work. People have more time for talking (absent TV!) and so make their thoughts known in a way that seems quaint to our ears. But we once did speak in these slow, restrained and simpler ways; just peruse any of Lincoln's writings, or Whitman's poetry. The writing and rationale for "The Village" isn't an attempt to make the past seem familiar (like British accents for Roman spectacles); it's a conscious decision to remake thought and life based on long-ago abandoned values.