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Review: The Happening

india Updated: Jun 14, 2008 03:23 IST
Rashid Irani

The Happening
: Manoj Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel
Rating: ***

Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to deny that M Night Shyamalan is one of the most accomplished visual stylists in Hollywood today. Expectedly, too, the director who masterminded the smash hit, The Sixth Sense back in 1999, returns to Philadelphia (the setting for all his movies) for an eerie ecological thriller.

A deadly airborne toxin sweeps across the east coast of the US, driving people to suicide. So, it’s back to the ‘save humanity from disaster’ mode. In fact, we approach The Happening with a bit of trepidation. Will it be repetitive? As it turns out, Shyamalan still applies his craftsmanship with that essential component — elan. The outcome, then, is likely to win over even those who baulked at The Lady in the Water (2006).

Based on an original script by the director, nature-gone-awry narrative is tautly structured. We have been barely introduced to a mild-mannered science teacher (Wahlberg , uncharacteristically bland) when he is forced to flee from the mysterious menace. Worse, he also has to sort out a strained relationship with his inscrutable wife (Deschanel, wide–eyed and unconvincing). Shyamalan doesn’t rush the plot, preferring instead to offer incremental bits of information which deliver unnerving chills. Note especially the shooting of a couple of youngsters by an unseen gunman barricaded inside his own home. Commendably the director by and large avoids the gory excesses associated with scare -fests.

To be sure, the tempo is occasionally bogged down by some loose ends, besides striking us as a mite too silly for comfort at times. Moreover, the few feeble attempts at humour are misplaced.

The atmospheric cinematography by Tak Fujimoto and the whiplash editing contribute considerably to the film’s impact. All its pros and cons considered, The Happening is several notches above the mindless blockbusters which have been inflicted upon us in the name of entertainment lately.