Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Released: August 2002
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin
What a shame.
I love a good sci-fi thriller as much as the next person, but this had all the potential and none of the thrills.
It’s about Father Graham Hess (Mel Gibson – I guess Bruce Willis was sick that day) who has lost faith in God after his wife was killed by a driver, Ray (M. Night Shyamalan), who fell asleep at the wheel. If he had fallen asleep and veered off the road at literally any other point during his journey, then Graham’s wife would still be alive. This fact haunts both Graham and Ray.
Ray: I’ve never fallen asleep while driving before. It had to be at that right moment. That 10-15 seconds when I passed her walking. It’s like it was meant to be.
This theme of fate and destiny plays a large part in this film.
Graham: People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance…
Meanwhile, what is supposed to be the main plot point takes a back seat thanks to all the internal conflict: Graham has bloody great big crop circles appearing on his land. Then, unidentified intruders begin to appear on his property.
His younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) and Graham’s two children Bo (Abigail Breslin) and Morgan (Rory Culkin – Haley Joel Osment must not have been available) hide in the basement when the aliens begin to attack.
Now I see what helped inspire the Tom Cruise film War of the Worlds. Especially with the whole single dad and smart-ass children thing going on. Cruise’s character is even call Ray in War of the Worlds – just like Shyamalan’s character in this movie!
Unfortunately, the Morgan character was such a little know-it-all that he’d basically tell the audience exactly what was going to happen, just before it happened. So by the time the aliens did invade, you already knew what they’d do and why anyway.
In addition to his over-shares, was that we are shown the aliens in broad daylight – big mistake. It’s far more scary when you don’t know what the monsters look like.
If that wasn’t enough, the lack of music did not work in the film’s favour at all. Isn’t that rule number one of filmmaking? It’s the music that sets the mood, but the lack of if in vital scenes during this film meant that there were many points where it fell flat instead of making you jump.
Bo: There’s a monster outside my room, can I have a glass of water?
Very flat. To the point where the story of alien invasion ground to a halt while Graham reflected on his faith and internalised emotional conflict.
The story was trying to be more complex and more philosophical than it needs to be, with jarringly comedic dialogue to snap you out of any suspense that may have been growing. It drags the film to a crawl and you no longer feel afraid – which, I’m certain was the opposite effect they were going for.
Graham: Everybody in this family needs to just calm down and eat some fruit or something.
There were too many monologues and too many over-layered scenes for me to really get stuck in.
I’m so disappointed because I can see this story had so much potential, I just think it was executed in the wrong way. Which is doubly-disappointing because the genius M. Night Shyamalan is behind it all.
Jodie’s rating: 3/10