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The Happening

August 30, 2010

The Happening (2008)
Director: M. Night Shaymalan
Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, Ashlyn Sanchez

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Synopsis: Schoolteacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife (Zooey Deschanel) head to the rural fringes of Pennsylvania to escape the strange “happenings” in the major cities….

Review: This marks a partial return to form for M. Night Shymalan after the execrable The Village and The Lady in the Water. The familiar air of mystery pervading his narratives is well sustained for large stretches of the film, and the drama is populated with convincing and sympathetic characters. Shymalan manages to mar the final act somewhat with one of his famous ‘twists’ and that hammy propensity of his in finding causality for the ambiguous ‘phenomena’ in his stories through banal character crises and human parables. In this film, that means Shymalan privileging a rather unconvincing subplot about the redemption of Zoey Deschanel and Mark Wahlberg’s characters’ marriage amid the apocalyptic “happenings”. His The Sixth Sense worked best, not just for the overall concentric brilliance of its narrative, but because the ending is totally validated through its central character’s journey, as much as in its more fêted guise as a dramatic and technical tour de force. The fact that Shymalan is unwilling to sell The Happening out entirely to one of his fatuous endings maybe just hints that he is rediscovering the darker tone that elevated his first two major pieces of work. (June 2008)

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