(a review from a movie, seen with a free ticket, contains potential spoilers)
I carefully avoided all the hype and reviews from this movie in hope of seeing it without much of a clue. It is the fourth movie from M. Night Shyamalan, who also made The Sixth Sense and Signs. It is done in more or less the same style and atmosphere from Signs, cast with a sort of morbidly silent air that is broken by occasional dialogue.
Joaquin Phoenix, who also starred in Signs as Mel Gibson's brother (the baseball player), co-leads with the almost blind lady (Bryce Howard). They live in a 19th century town surrounded by a very forboding wood, forboding as in having rather terrifying creatures in it. But don't worry, apparently there is an "agreement" with the monsters lurking out there, that they stay out of the valley, and the villagers stay out of the forest. The forest that separates them from the rest of the world, so there is no contact or trade with the outside. Things get a bit angsty with the monsters when a few of the villagers cross the boundaries...
The secrets are of course the centre of the story, and the impending monster invasion is just the background. As with his previous movies, you need to find which "ball" you are meant to keep your eyes on, if you get are waiting for the monster-human showdown, then you might get disappointed.
Probably one of the big surprises for me is that I saw Adrien Brody's name in the opening credits and then at the end credits without realising what part he played! Then thinking back, well of course it was him, but he played very differently from usual (well completely different from The Pianist) and acquited himself well in his part. I look forward to seeing him in King Kong.
There are two incredulous ideas in the movie though, which mars it somewhat for me. If it is a plot-based folly, it should at least connect the dots in a realistic way. Old Boy connected the dots more convincingly for me. This didn't. It didn't carry itself as well Signs either, and lacked variety. But the whole concept was well-worth investigating. The usual kicker ending came as usual in M. Night's movies, which was much appreciated, and made the slightly overlong story sew itself nicely for a satisfying conclusion. In a way, it was a polemic about village society versus modern society. It also had strange significance for me, as I am doing a drama assignment on the Chinese story Peach Blossom Springs, which has strange connections with this movie.
Overall, on my usual rating system, I rate it a good movie. Nothing to rave about (and I have heard people rave about it) but still worth a watch.