"The Sixth Sense"
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Review by Carlos deVillalvilla
(With additional comments below by John Orr.)
People who see a lot of movies, like I do, are like chocoholics in a candy store - after a while, it all tastes the same. Then again, once in a while something comes along that surprises you, makes you remember what it is you love about chocolate - or movies - in the first place.
In this one, Willis plays Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a psychiatrist (haven't we seen this one before?) for children who is celebrating a mayoral award for service to the community. Unfortunately, his celebration is ruined by a former patient with a chip on his shoulder and, more importantly, a gun. Faster than you can say "plot complication" Willis is lying on his back, wondering what hit him. It turns out it was a bullet, which can really ruin a nice evening.
Time passes, as it often does in grade-B thrillers, and Crowe is back at work, trying to reach a child who is taunted by his classmates, who suffers from extreme panic attacks and Hides A Deep Dark Secret.
At first reluctant to share it with the kindly doctor, after a particularly hideous episode at a party (and a few very spooky encounters beforehand), he finally confesses: little Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) can see dead people, and not just ANY dead people he sees really grisly ghosts who'd met gruesome fates. As the encounters become more and more chilling, the at-first skeptical psychiatrist comes to believe that there may be more than just your garden variety psychosis at work here.
The plot description hardly does the flick justice. It reads like a Direct-to-Video turkey just waiting to be plucked. But an astonishingly good performance by Willis (who carries his wounds not so much in the body but in his eyes) and the once-in-a-decade plot twist that will leave you literally gasping in your seat, wondering why the heck you didn't spot it coming. You will want to see the movie AGAIN so that you can see it from a fresh perspective. Well, that makes it first-rate in my book.
Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan proves himself an exciting new talent, able to tell a story simply without resorting to cheap cliches or lavish effects, creating a wonderfully tense environment that sucks the viewer in without asking him to leave their brain in the popcorn bucket. Although there are some genuinely gruesome moments, and more than a few leap-out-of-your-seat-and-scream-out-loud shocks, "The Sixth Sense" never sinks to excess, becoming in effect a poster child for less-is-more.
In a summer of much-ballyhooed, effects-laden disappointments, it's comforting to know that the two best movies of the summer, "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Sixth Sense" are meeting with a great deal of commercial success as well. That both are horror movies also lends hope that a new breed of horror movies that are intellectual instead of or, at least, as well as visceral may be on the way to movieplexes cluttered with too many movies about teens.
Additional notes from John Orr:
"The Sixth Sense" is a delightfully surprising film, and I left the theater feeling very pleased about having seen it.
Carlos didn't happen to mention the excellent cinematography by Tak Fujimoto, which in many, many ways, makes this film work. Fujimoto and Shyamalan conspire to make for a very palpable sense of place ... and sometimes that is a very eery place.
And Haley Joel Osment's performance as the very scared little boy with the very special talent is wonderful. The room gets cold, and pretty soon dead people with some disgusting surprises start popping up, trying to get his attention, and they aren't very nice about it.
Cole's story is very touching, really. Everyone but his mother thinks he is a freak, so he is an outcast at school ... and he is afraid to tell his mother what he sees. So, until Dr. Crowe comes along, he is a very lonely little boy. His nights are terrifying I especially liked the scene where he had hidden in sleep as long as he could, but finally has to make a knees-crossed run for the toilet.
And, the story of Dr. Crowe is also touching. He is a man who genuinely wants to help children, and he is heartbroken by the one with whom he fails. His efforts to help Cole help him repair that damage to his own psyche.
I also liked Olivia Williams as Crowe's devoted but lonely wife, Anna; and Toni Collette as Cole's hard-working single mother.
Congratulations to cast and crew. A wonderful film that I suspect most of us will eventually consider a classic.
In the theater or home video?
Oh, go see it in the theater. It's beautiful to look at, and very effective. When it comes out on video or DVD, go for a letter-box version. Don't let them pan&scan techs reduce it for you.
VHS at Amazon.com.
See other information about "Sixth Sense" at Internet Movie Data Base.