The Happening

The Happening ★★★

It's all a little misguided but Shyamalan nails the immediacy of post-trauma shell-shock and the reviled final 'explanation' mechanism is never definitive as in the opening scene of the film Wahlberg discusses (rather punctually, but the discussion happens) the simple grounding concept that there is no 'reason' for things to happen, but we can attempt to apply reason - or perhaps more accurately, we will attempt to apply reason to events. And so as Shyamalan explores the distaster-film landscape, the character of Elliot slowly begins to destroy his own relationships and question what he truly believes in - the screenplay stinks of B-movie conventionality but that is exactly why such gloriously hammy moments (the entire 'perfect face' talk incorporated into that opening scene) land the way they're intended: Shyamalan just doesn't care how the film goes down, and it looks like audiences (including myself around this time last year) have interpreted this to mean the film is bad - far from it, The Happening is an entirely complete vision, even if it is never fully successful - riffing off B-grade disaster flicks is all fun and games, but it doesn't alter the fact that you're still just an intelligent B-grade disaster flick.

It's at its best in big-scale action sequences framed intimately without room to see the entirety of the action, or in small character moments shot from too far away to get the full impact; in a film of juxtapositions and contrasts (figures becoming tiny dots in small situations, and obscuring the entire screen during citywide action sequences), it's difficult to believe that the inconsistency of the screenplay is anything but intentional in a film this big. It's also worthwhile noting that the most impressive aspect in the craft of the film is in how alien the geography of this place feels - as an audience we're in a state of constant disorientation and misjudge distance many times over and over, a feat which shouldn't be looked past.

M. Night is a master, it just takes a special kind of effort to see his brilliance.

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