“Everything written in science books is about to change”

Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, a farmer who lives with his brother Merrill, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), and his two children, Bo and Morgan – played by Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin, respectively. All performances, especially Gibson’s, create so much realistic emotion as their actions and characteristics slowly coincide with the awe-inspiring climax of the film. M. Night Shyamalan not only produces, directs and writes this amazing film, but he also plays his biggest supporting role yet as Ray Reddy, a key figure in the plot. Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm) also co-stars as Officer Paski.

After the unique opening credits, Shymalan accomplishes so much with techniques such as foreshadowing and flashbacks that establish mood, develop the characters and reveal the plot all at the same time. His filmmaking efforts produce heightened results based on your imagination, emotion, beliefs and thoughts.

Shymalan uses many camera shots that keep the small scope of the Hess farm in the minds of the audience. The outside world exists only through media as Shymalan uses aerial views and slow pans to set up the upcoming action that’s most impactful when he uses camera shots from the characters’ point of view.

Seeing less definitely means more in this film as Shymalan continues to create simple dialogue, character action and plot structure that may be slow for some, but always produces highly impactful results without making the audience feel that they were tricked into it.

His deliberate filmmaking reaches some of the deepest fears in humans and creates real emotions through a strong plot full of themes and concepts that are both comforting and troubling. Admirable themes regarding family, the value of life and destiny permeate the negative, and highly fearful, elements of the plot.

The top notch technical crew elevates this film to a highly satisfying level. James Newton Howard produces an amazing musical score while cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (Silence of the Lambs) creates a visual environment as tense as the action in the plot. The sound department works wonders (be sure to pay close attention to sound you do and do not hear) and compounds the effects of the fearful emotions in the film. Shymalan knows how to entertain an audience and even puts together a good amount of low-key comic relief in between the action.

Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) continues his amazing success in the thriller/sci-fi genre with this highly recommended film (***1/2 out of four stars) that was shot in Newtown, Penn., outside of Philadelphia. Rated PG-13 for tense themes and situations.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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