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Movie Review: 'The Watchers' Starring Dakota Fanning

The Watchers is a bit basic but not a bad start for director Ishana Night Shyamalan.

By Sean PatrickPublished 14 days ago 4 min read

The Watchers (2024)

Directed by Ishana Night Shyamalan

Written by Ishana Night Shyamalan

Starring Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Olwen Fouere, Oliver Finnigan

Release Date June 7th, 2024

Published June 10thth, 2024

The Watchers stars Dakota Fanning as Mina, an emotionally scarred young woman hiding from her problems as an ex-pat in Ireland. She works for a pet shop and when her boss asks her to take a rare parrot to a zoo in Dublin she leaps at the chance to break the monotony of her life. This monotony includes encounters with strange men in bars while she's wearing a wig to hide her identity. What this proclivity has to do with the rest of the plot of The Watchers is up to you, I suppose.

While driving her new parrot friend to Dublin, Mina finds herself lost in a forest that doesn't appear to be on her map. When her vehicle breaks down, she gets out of the car and with her parrot, she goes searching for help. As the sun begins to go down, she starts hearing a strange rustling sound. Soon, she's beckoned to come into a strange looking building an urgent woman we will come to know as Madeleine (Olwen Fouere). She instructs Mina to stand in front a mirrored wall as 'the watchers' arrive to stare at them.

There are two other relatively young people in this strange bunker facility in the middle of a random forest. Ciara (Georgina Campbell) got lost in the forest with her husband. He's since fully gone missing, though we know he's likely dead based on a pre-credits scene where he dies. Daniel (Oliver Finnigan) is a hot headed young man, responsible for the hunting and gathering of food for the people trapped here. Here, by the way, is a building called 'The Coop.' It was built by a crazed professor who we will see in videos uncovered later in the plot.

So, you are probably wondering, who are 'The Watchers'? Are they aliens? Irish hillbillies? Random monsters? No, no and no. I won't go into who 'The Watchers' are as that is far too much of a spoiler and you should decide for yourself if you're intrigued enough to want to know. That said, I wasn't particularly interested once their identity had been fully revealed. Visually, the watchers are interesting looking and they make a creepy noise when they are nearby but their overarching goal is a tad unclear, even as the movie seems to be spelling it out as much as possible by the end.

Mostly, the movie is a rudimentary examination of the character of Mina. We see flashbacks to her as a child struggling with the death of her mother. She blames herself and you will see why as the story progresses, though you can't really blame a child for such a horrific accident. We will watch as she's forced to stand in front of a mirror and perform a self-analysis in order to win over her fellow captives, win their trust and work toward helping them and herself escape. Her journey is forgiving herself for the past and moving into the future. It's very basic and Dakota Fanning does well to explore her character's emotions while feeding that emotion into the final act escape, going from being unsure of wanting to live to fully embracing life.

Among the rudimentary aspects of The Watchers, I wanted to highlight something incredibly basic and obvious. As Mina is preparing to take the parrot to Dublin, her boss remarks randomly that this bird species is 'fiercely loyal.' It's such a strange and needless left field observation that your brain has to clock it for a moment. This information will be coming back later. And then it does come back later. This is screenwriting 101 stuff and while there is nothing obviously wrong with it, most non-film critic audiences may not even notice it, it does come off a bit on the amateur side. It's clumsy in its obviousness and that clumsiness is indicative of the inexperience of the writer-director.

The Watchers is structured for big reveals that will be familiar to fans of the work of the director's father, M. Night Shyamalan. Echoes of The Village and Lady in the Water are very much present and do little help director Ishana Night Shyamalan escape her father's shadow.That, and dad's very prominent Executive Producer credit on the film hamper Ishana Night Shyamala from establishing an identity of her own as a director. She's got a long way to go based on The Watchers but I do see a little promise in the film for a future where she may make a movie that doesn't simply resemble a script her father set aside.

Find my more than 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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