Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 2002. Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, The Kennedy/Marshall Company. Screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan. Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. Produced by Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan. Music by James Newton Howard. Production Design by Larry Fulton. Costume Design by Ann Roth. Film Editing by Barbara Tulliver. Online Film Critics Awards 2002. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2002.
Farmer and former priest Mel Gibson is startled awake one morning to find mysteriously-shaped crop circles in the cornfields adjoining his house. He is further disturbed by news reports that detail similar events happening around the world, but refrains from reporting his own as he believes it to be an elaborate hoax concocted by international conspirators. Of course, barking dogs and bumpy noises in the night totally disagree with him, and when television cameras start showing images of unearthly spaceships hovering over Mexico City, he knows that something extraordinary is happening, something that will force him to re-examine the choices he made in his life when his wife’s untimely death was followed by his turning his back on his church and his faith. Wunderkind director M. Night Shyamalan is definitely treading on familiar territory with his fourth feature film, using character detail and subtle dramatic development to back up every cliche known to this genre of supernatural-fright filmmaking, and when the film finally hits its stride in its second act his mind tricks actually work quite well. Frightening chases through corn fields and close encounters of a very third kind are effective and at times downright frightening, augmented by strong images that send icicles straight to your ever-quickening heart. Gibson is first-rate in the lead role, more effective than he has been in years thanks to having his more self-righteous persona toned down quite a bit. He and an exceptional Joaquin Phoenix as his brother do a lot with the script’s bad dialogue that constantly threatens to undermine the meatier dramatic scenes. Unfortunately, like his previous effort Unbreakable, Shyamalan is all early punch and no follow-through, leaving the closing third of the film hokey and totally forgettable.