Hmm. I'm honestly not sure about this one.
On the one hand, the suspense was pretty much as advertised. The theatre was unusually silent (except for the latecomers drifting in in the middle of the frelling movie
), which is usually a testimony to the effectiveness of the writing/directing.
On the other hand, most of the suspense elements were blatantly obvious; you knew something
was going to happen, just not what.
Fair warning; the film draws a lot of its impact from the religious undercurrent (Gibson's character is a priest), so be prepared for a lot of talking and plot exposition. Hey, I
liked it, but then I'm (A) a writer, and (B) interested in subjects of Faith and spirituality.
The special effects were generally well done, except for a very obvious CGI bit during the climactic duel (see my comments on Cartoon-Yoda; the CGI itself was great, it just didn't match the background). I'm inclined to ignore it though, because the effects really weren't carrying the movie, they just appear here and there to amplify what the writer is already doing (Lucas should be taking notes).
There was a (pleasantly) surprising amount of humour, helped along by Gibson and Phoenix's deadpan delivery (and the scene stealing of the children).
One thing that did
bug me was the plot exposition. Well, no, not the exposition itself, but the deus ex machina
approach to it. I haven't seen a novel anywhere, but it seems like Shyamalan had a much longer story in mind, and had to "infodump" to condense it. On one hand, infodumps tend to ruin stories, but as a writer, I know how hard they can be to avoid, especially when you're writing to length.
Either way, good movie if you're looking for a way to waste an evening; the writing, acting, and effects all come together beautifully.
Most effective part: At the end, after they've "won," keep your eye on the TV screen (it's so effective, people in the theatre actually gasped).
And, those of you who've seen it; did the look of the aliens remind anybody else of the Yuuzhan Vong, or was it just me?