The creators of my all time favourite television series 'The X-Files' would
have killed for the opportunity to make an episode with the material as
eerie as the stuff contained within 'The Sixth Sense'. This is right up
their alley and if you love stories about the paranormal, the occult or good
old fashioned ghosts, 'The Sixth Sense' is a film you definitely don't want
to miss. It strings the audience along and keeps them in the palm of its
hand and deserves to be one of 1999's best films on many critic's lists at
the end of the year.
'The Sixth Sense' is a quiet, sometimes muted, and always surreal thriller
that has psychological overtones that drum up memories of films past. It
will scare the tar out of you at times and in a very tasteful manner I might
add. But what makes it truly memorable is that it is not done in a
conventional style with any recognizable formula but offers a plot twist
that will be hard to spot since your mind will be on how the main character
will resolve the fear regarding his sixth sense.
The real test of how good a film can be dramatically is to withdraw any
extreme attempt to overwhelm the audience with a music score. Few films
succeed at this but 'The Sixth Sense' carries itself extremely well and uses
the afterlife as a metaphor and draws variations (not copies) from films
such as 'Jacob's Ladder' and 'Ghost'.
Bruce Willis is Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist who has a very
respectable practice. So much so in fact that he wins awards from local
dignitaries and has a wife (Olivia Williams) who loves him very much. One
night at his Philadelphia home, a young adult breaks in and Malcolm
discovers that it's a former patient from a decade or so ago who wasn't
cured of his problems and he shoots Dr. Crowe in the stomach and then
commits suicide. The film then skips forward to the following autumn and
Malcolm counsels a young boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) with a very
serious problem. Cole confesses: "I see dead people".
This confession doesn't come easily. It happens about halfway through the
film after some terrifying psychological teasing at the hands of his peers.
He is ridiculed by other children his age and his mother has a difficult
time dealing with her son's problems.
After Cole confesses that he sees the dead, Dr. Crowe diagnosis his case as
paranoia and no one believes he is actually telling the truth. There are
signs throughout the film that not only can the boy see the dead but he can
actually hear them and communicate with them as well. 'The Sixth Sense'
then takes a strange and sudden twist that will leave you breathless during
the film's final few minutes.
Bruce Willis is good in his role but he falls into the classic trap of
acting with either animals or children who upstage him. In this case it is
11-year old Haley Joel Osment who gives a heart breaking, strong and eerie
performance as the child with the gift that is more like a curse. Osment's
performance should bring him an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.
You may remember him as Tom Hanks' little boy in 'Forrest Gump'. Strangely,
in a supporting role he manages to be the main character as the film's
entire arc is built around him.
29-year old writer/director M. Night Shyamalan deserves a lot of praise for
crafting a film with intelligence, emotion and one that will give you a lot
of after thought. The reason it does is that all of the people that the boy
sees have died of violent or unnatural deaths. There is no mercy in its
look at what the afterlife may be like when the soul leaves the body
unexpectedly and one man's idea of what it may be like is as valid as anyone
else who has tried it in a similarly sophisticated fashion in the past.
Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith