August 1st, 2002 Film, Film Reviews, Filmink

It’s Independence Day meets The Sixth Sense …or is it? M. Night Shyamalan’s third major foray into the unknown will keep you guessing.

Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), farmer and former reverend, has lost his wife in a car accident six months before and lost all faith in a higher power. Living quietly with his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) and kids Morgan and Bo (played to perfection by an impossibly young girl and yet another of the Culkin brood), things turn strange.

The dogs turn savage and bark at nothing, dark figures lurk in the night and a crop circle appears in their corn at the same time the TV news reports similar phenomena — together with unidentified lights hovering over cities — all over the world.

But it isn’t about aliens, UFOs or crop circles (despite what presence they may have). It’s about whether the things that happen each day (even the dying words of Hess’ wife during flashbacks) are simply occurrences, or portents. In a conversation halfway through, the pivotal point of the film is made — are there really any coincidences?

The Indian-born writer/producer/director gets free reign to play with the camera and create the kind of havoc with set pieces, points of view and tension that gives his movies their distinctive style.

It’s essentially a B movie topic given high quality and serious treatment (despite the occasional outbreak of humour missing from Shyamalan’s prior efforts). And while the entire film seems to be setting you up for one of his mind-bending twists, it’s not nearly as effective as those in The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable.

Despite the shortcomings, the ‘living’ photography and palpable tension will draw you in, and without expecting Shyamalan to better himself, you’ll be adequately challenged and entertained.

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