Michael Koresky at the Village Voice:
From plot point A to rug pull Z, his narratives don’t flow along as much as reveal themselves moment by moment: Try not to feel duped, but allow yourself to see the universe and, in confluence, the constructed movie world anew. His need for geometrical precision has resulted in overly tidy packages, yet the question must be addressed to those who bemoan his reliance on the "twist ending": So what? Now that Gore Verbinski films pass as "clever" studio product, why are so many so eager to come down so hard on Shyamalan, whose insistence on creating such ethereal, confounding universes is premised on constant invention and revelation?
Keith Ulrich at Slant:
Shyamalan’s self-described bedtime story is as uncompromised a film as they come, yet it is cut from distressingly egocentric cloth, the product of a man with a frighteningly sincere messiah complex. Shyamalan isn’t play-acting by casting himself in the film as a tortured writer who finds his muse in the mythical water creature Story (Bryce Dallas Howard). Like a populist Roland Barthes suddenly regressed to pre-adolescence, Shyamalan really believes in this hermetically sealed work’s every childlike (often childish) syllable, sign, and signifier that points the way to his inevitable deification. But what of the scenes where his character is genuinely humble before the muse, genuflecting and attentive as if in the presence of a power greater than him, and augmented by Hong Kong-based cinematographer Christopher Doyle‘s own holy gaze (credit Shyamalan for picking true visionaries as his collaborators)? There is authentic contradiction here, more so than in the superficial shenanigans of Shyamalan’s thinly veiled and ineffective political allegory "The Village," and it is not a narrative afterthought.
Ross Douthat at Slate:
In "The Village," as in all his films, Shyamalan seems to be aiming for something, amid our summers of high-grossing superhero movies and our winters of little-seen Oscar-bait projects, that’s increasingly rare these days: a marriage of entertainment and art, of mass-market tastes and elite sensibilities. This is a hard combination to pull off, as his stumbles have demonstrated, but it’s precisely the goal that the film industry, home to our last mass art form, ought to be aspiring to. So, Shyamalan deserves credit, despite his vanity and his misstepsâ€”not because he’s succeeding, necessarily, but because he’s willing to keep trying and unwilling to take his place with those timid, highly compensated directors who know neither victory nor defeat.
We really wanted to take a moment to guess, solely on the basis of the TV spots, the plot twist on which "Lady in the Water" rests, as we guessed the twist at the end of "The Village" from just the trailer and went around feeling even more smug than usual, something we quite enjoyed. Unfortunately, there are rumblings that "Lady" doesn’t end with a reveal the way Shyamalan’s previous films did. With that in mind, we’ll just predict that Bryce Dallas Howard’s character is evil. Look at those bangs: clearly, evil.