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  Publicity Stills of
"The Happening"
(Courtesy from 20th Century Fox)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Betty Buckley, Spencer Breslin, Ashlyn Sanchez
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.thehappeningmovie.com/

Opening Day: 12 June 2008


From director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) comes a lightning-paced, heart-pounding paranoid thriller about a family on the run from an inexplicable and unstoppable event that threatens not only humankind . . . but the most basic human instinct of them all: survival. For Philadelphia high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Wahlberg) what matters most is finding a way to escape the mysterious and deadly phenomenon. Though he and his wife Alma (Deschanel) are in the midst of a marital crisis, they hit the road, first by train, then by car, with Elliot’s math teacher friend Julian (Leguizamo) and his 8 year-old daughter Jess, heading for the Pennsylvania farmlands where they hope they’ll be out of reach of the grisly, ever-growing attacks. Yet it soon becomes clear that no one – and nowhere – is safe.

Movie Review:

Dear Mr. Shyamalan,

I think the world is being is unfair to you. Sure, you wrote and directed your Hollywood breakout hit about a boy who sees dead people in 1999. The prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was so impressed with that film, they nominated you for two Oscars. Then you made the movie about an unbreakable superhero in 2002. People started to suspect you had nothing fresh up your sleeves anymore. In 2004, you questioned my faith with those crop circles. Your fan base became smaller. And in 2006, when all you wanted to tell was a simple bedtime story about a water nymph, critics said that you have lost your touch.

Sigh, it isn’t easy being a writer-director-producer these days, is it?

For the record, I empathize with you, Mr. Shymalan. And I truly understand what you are getting at in your older movies. I have just seen your latest work, and judging by how the rest of the world is having instant messaging nicknames like “Nothing Happens” and questioning on Facebook how you still get financing for your films, I seriously think it is increasingly difficult to live in this harsh world, with all the high and mighty expectations people have of you.

Your latest script tells the story of a man on the run. Running from what? He has no idea. To tell you the truth, I have no idea either. But the bigger picture of things tells me that humanity is facing a crisis so serious that if we do not deal with it, we may get wiped out from the face of the Earth. No one will be safe, and there is no one you can trust anymore. I guess that’s about the most I can write in this letter to you without giving away too much spoilers, because that is something you are very against. After all, there was no major media preview for this movie, which probably says something about what you are trying to hide from pesky media reviewers like me.

Back to what you are trying to convey with this movie - Just the thought of the above scenario happening sends shivers down my spines. Imagine, you don’t know what is attacking you, and people around you are doing weird things to themselves. You can only watch in horror as a fellow human being perish. This premise is ingenious indeed.

But you should know the pitfalls of escalating this plot to such a height. When you provide a conclusion that doesn’t satisfy the crowd out there, they turn into an angry mob. What you get in return are harsh and unkind reviews, asking you to retire and stop making films. It doesn’t help that you got Mark Whalberg who isn’t exactly the most expressive actor around to play your protagonist. His co-stars Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo fare okay, but do not deliver a performance as memorable as that boy Haley Joel Osment in your Oscar nominated movie nine years ago.

What I really love though, is your choice of composer. James Newton Howard’s score for your latest work is one fine piece of art, especially when he hauntingly infuses tension with emotion in the final act. What brilliance. Maya Beiser’s cello solos are poignant and evocative too.

I know you have a film entitled The Last Airbender in the works for 2010 already. It is a live action adaptation of an animated series. Maybe it’s for the better that you are staying off the mystery genre for a while, but it looks like you’ve had enough of this harsh world already. But I still thank you for The Happening - It is keeping me disturbed and awake enough at 4.45am to pen this review. It is probably due to forces at work beyond our understanding.

Whatever the case, I wish you all the best, Mr. Shyamalan.

Yours truly,
John Li, a supportive and forgiving fan

Movie Rating:

(You either get bowled over by Shymalan’s latest premise, or dismiss it as a gimmicky mess – it all depends on your expectations)

Review by John Li


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. The Village (2004)

. War of the Worlds DVD (2005)

. Children of Men DVD (2006)

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