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The Happening

Not one of M. Night Shyamalan's better films, but still, it's not as bad as the critics say.

An idea like this can only come from the mind of Shyamalan, whose affinity for the macabre was what launched his Hollywood ticket in the first place. The plot is so simple (the whole structure came to Shyamalan in an instant, while driving through rural New Jersey) that it should be told in a simple, non-linear fashion; just straight-up, direct storytelling. The script is flimsy, as there are some holes that should have been patched up, and there are some ideas that could have been explored more, but Shyamalan makes up for his shortcomings as screenwriter by performing wonderfully as director. It all boils down to execution, and Shyamalan, already a master visual storyteller, knows how to pace the film, to make it subtle, and to let the suspense build up. Although his stories may be of the supernatural, M. Night Shyamalan is a realistic storyteller, always grounding his narratives in something we are all familiar with.

One excellent aspect of this film is James Newton Howard's musical score. It is so effective that you will hardly even notice that there is any musical score at all. All you feel is the suspense that builds up inside you, which is a direct effect of the musical score.

The performances of the actors are commendable, as there is really no room for over-acting in an M. Night Shyamalan flick. Like the narrative, it all boils down to subtlety, and Mark Wahlberg as science teacher Elliot Moore, delivers just the right amount of panic and hysteria that his role calls for. Zooey Deschanel as Mrs. Moore reminds me of nothing more than a younger, blue-eyed Meg Ryan. John Leguizamo, surprisingly, is able to pull off a Philadelphia high school math teacher slash father, and his screen time is cut dramatically with his early death in the film. One terrific discovery by Shyamalan is young actress Ashlyn Sanchez, who plays Leguizamo's daughter Jess. While Sanchez is no Dakota Fanning, she still shows a lot of promise, and we could expect more films from her in the future. And of course, where is the director himself with his trademark cameos? He minimizes himself this time and does a Lionel Richie, with just one word over the telephone: Hello. Just a voice, not even a glimpse.

Again, a valuable lesson I keep telling everyone is "Do not listen to the critics". Go watch the film anyway, and enjoy it according to your standards, not theirs.

Rating: Four stars.


Anonymous said...

I had the fortune of seeing the movie. John was beautiful.

Yes in fact john leguizamo is one of my favorite actors.

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