The review of A Knock at the Door, the new film by M. Night Shyamalan that builds tension well and exploits the skill of the cast led by Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff and Rupert Grint.
Choices. Our life is made up of continuous choices and decisions that direct the course of our existence, but the one faced by the protagonists of Knocking at the door is one of those out of the ordinary. Unthinkable and impossible. It’s not a spoiler to say, because it’s part of the initial cue and basic synopsis of the new film by M. Night Shyamalan in theaters from February 2, 2023, and we specify that this review will not have advances on the development of the story that arises from it, but will focus on the approach and themes of the director of The sixth sense, one of those authors who has managed to surprise his audience many times and from whom we always expect a final twist capable of changing the tables and displacing us. In the case of this latest work of his, based on the 2018 novel by Paul G. Tremblay, the constant and palpable tension and the work on the cast are the greatest qualities that we have identified.
An unexpected Home Invasion in the Knock on the Door storyline
Knocking at the door it is an evocative and guessed title, changed from that of the starting novel The house at the end of the worldperfect for introducing what is in effect a Home Invasion albeit sui generis. The protagonists Eric and Andrew are in fact on vacation in an isolated cabin with their daughter Wen when they are joined by a group of four individuals, dressed in a similar way but with different colored shirts, who force their way into the house and keep them hostage, but also put them in front of a difficult decision: they must make a choice, agree to sacrifice one of their own, in order to avoid the apocalypse and avert the imminent end of the world. Prisoners and isolated from the outside world, will Eric and Andrew agree to believe the apocalyptic scenario that is proposed to them?
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Attention to the protagonists
A cabin in the middle of nowhere, seven characters: this is the narrative center of Knock on the Door, a beating heart that Shyamalan develops with obsessive attention to the characters, focusing on their faces, expressions, feelings and emotions. On the one hand, the couple formed by Eric and Andrew, played by Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff, different but close-knit, between the frightened and the combative, the surrender and the reaction, concerned first of all with protecting their adopted daughter Wen, the first to make contact with the group of strangers and their apparent leader Leonard. Theirs is a compact and solid family nucleus, a unity of spirit and purpose that appears important and precious to the director, something to be safeguarded, protected, kept safe.
On the other hand there are the four intruders, four seemingly normal individuals, victims of an obsession that takes them to that isolated place and pushes them to the actions of which we see them as protagonists to fulfill what they believe to be their mission: to guide them c It’s Leonard’s an amazing Dave Bautista, an innocent giant, as Shyamalan himself defined him in the Roman meeting; but next to him the group is completed with punctual sensitivity by Adriane played by Nikki Amuka-Bird, Sabrina played by Abby Quinn and finally Redmond, the most out of control of the group, another proof to be promoted by Rupert Grintthe former Harry Potter Ron already in Shyamalan’s employ for Servant. Seven characters in a single environment for most of the film, pawns of the perfect tension mechanism set up by M. Night Shyamalan.
The palpable tension of knocking on the door
In Knocking at the doorindeed, the tension is always present, palpable. From the very first bars, from Wen’s first meeting with Leonard, as the story progresses and the events resound like dark chimes that mark the time towards an end that appears and is presented to us as imminent by the four assailants. It is perceived in what happens, it is reflected in the faces of the protagonists: this is why Shyamalan’s choice of staging is so sensible and functional, so attentive to the looks and expressions of his protagonists, so concentrated on his interpreters, because they are the mirror of the tension that the director intends to communicate to the viewer. The gears of the mechanism of him which generates anxiety and concern for the fate of the characters.
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The obsession with time, towards an imminent end
A clockwork mechanism, in a film in which time is clearly and explicitly marked: it is the time to which Leonard’s nervous eyes run every time he consults his watch, in a tic that conveys obsession and vulnerability to blindly rely on something. The religious theme is present, alive, and represents for Shyamalan something that highlights the vulnerability of his group of protagonists, blinded by an unshakeable faith that determines their actions. Their darkness is not absolute and is reflected in an equally stained purity of their prisoners, building a story in which good and evil not only balance each other, but confuse and overlap, leaving us with something to think about and the feeling of not having clear ideas about what is right and what is wrong. If a film does this and leaves us thinking, it is already a great success.
One of the elements that struck us most about Knock on the Door, also highlighted in our review, is M. Night Shyalaman’s ability to hold tension and sustain it for the entire duration of his film. Between impossible choices and moral dilemmas, the seven protagonists confront each other in a crescendo of anxiety that involves the spectators and leaves them at the end of the race with something to reflect on. The cast is good, starting with a surprising Dave Bautista, capable of putting himself at the service of the story and its assumptions, without renouncing to outline the peculiarities of the respective characters.
Because we like it
- Shyamalan’s chosen shooting style, character focused and claustrophobic.
- The management of tension, growing and oppressive throughout the story.
- All the cast, with a special mention for an increasingly focused Dave Bautista in dramatic roles.
- The ability of the film to leave the viewer with ideas to think about.
- Those who love the Shyamalan that displaces with his proverbial twist may be disappointed, because it is a story built with different assumptions and intentions.