Movies:Movie Reviews:The Happening

The Happening

Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan

Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez and Betty Buckley

Reviewed by: Christine Lambert on

Release Date(s)

Jun 13, 2008 - Wide

Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) asks his science class about the disappearance of the honeybees. This sets up the disturbing premise of nature turning on humans after years of abuse taken by the Earth.

People are dying mysteriously in Central Park. New York City seems to be under attack from a neuro-toxin. The first stage is loss of speech, the second stage is physical disorientation, and the third stage is fatal as people to kill themselves with whatever means handy. The film focuses on the survival of Elliot, his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), his friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and Julian’s daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez). The foursome try to escape by train, but find themselves among strangers stranded in Pennsylvania. From there, Elliot, Alma and Jess continue on, while Julian takes a different route in hopes of finding his wife.

Since his enormous success with The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan movies are highly anticipated. It seems as a filmmaker, Shyamalan gets scrutinized more than other directors. Instead of looking at each project individually, his projects seem to get compared to The Sixth Sense, his greatest success.

When looking at The Happening, part of what makes this film work is that the “evil villain” is invisible and for the longest time misunderstood. At first, it is seen as a bio-terrorist attack. This plays upon the fears that everyone has after the events of 9/11 with all the news commentaries and speculation about how and when terrorists could attack America again. When anything happens these days, whether it’s a bus crashing or a factory exploding, our minds automatically go to terrorism and it’s no different for the people in this story.

As a high school science teacher, Mark Wahlberg takes a departure from the many tough guy roles he has played even though he is an actor that has always managed to show sensitivity below the surface.

The Happening is a film that plays on our fears with subtle, not gratuitous, violence. Even the shots of the suicides are aftermath shots for the most part rather than a tutorial on the various ways to kill oneself, and in this film there are many. The notion of the Earth turning against its inhabitants is one that has long been stated by anyone that touts the virtues of respecting the environment. Even though this film is a work of fiction and not a documentary, The Happening still has the suspense and depth to make any filmgoer think twice before they decide to throw a bottle away instead of recycling it.