The Sixth Sense is a gripping and intriguing combination of
psychological thriller and ghost story, with a solid emotional core
that reminds one of Jerry Zucker's Ghost (1990).
Eight year old Cole Sear (beautifully played by Haley Joel
Osment, a veteran of television and film, whose roles include playing
Forrest jr in Forrest Gump) is a deeply troubled kid. However, his
mother (Aussie actress Toni Collette) and doctors are unable to
discover the cause of his problems. Enter renowned child psychologist
Dr Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), who builds a rapport with Cole, and
eventually discovers that the kid is visited by ghosts. Cole is
unusually sensitive to their presence, and these spirits want him to
help pass messages to their living relatives and ease their grief and
A year earlier Crowe was shot by one of his former patients,
and is determined not to fail Cole, even at the cost of his failing
marriage. His long suffering wife Anna (Olivia Williams, from
Rushmore, etc) has grown cold and distant. In helping Cole come to
terms with his supernatural visitors, Crowe also understands the
source of his own personal problems.
Writer/director M Night Shyamalan ends the film with an
unexpected but rewarding twist. So many films end with a twist that
is both contrived and unconvincing. However, the sting in the tail
here works beautifully, and, like the surprise ending of The Usual
Suspects, it will have audiences re- evaluating everything from a
completely different perspective.
The Sixth Sense is in many ways an atypical Willis thriller.
Here he is not saving the world, merely a young child. However, in
contrast to the recent Mercury Rising, he does it without blazing
guns. Willis rises to the occasion with a far more perceptive,
restrained and intelligent performance that perfectly suits the mood
of the film. However, it is young Osment who steals the film with his
sensitive, sympathetic, intelligent and hugely endearing portrayal.
Collette is superb as Cole's concerned but confused mother, and
delivers a solid, rich and gut-wrenching performance that easily ranks
amongst her best.
It seems fitting that The Sixth Sense is filmed in
Philadelphia, a city steeped in history and the ghosts of the past.
Shyamalan beautifully builds up an unsettling atmosphere with lots of
symbolism and mysticism. He succeeds in unnerving audiences without a
heavy dependence on clever effects or carefully staged shocks. Tak
Fujimoto's cinematography further enhances the film's eerie mood.
This intriguing psychological thriller is actually the third
film from Shyamalan, a Philadelphia-based film maker who turned his
back on his family tradition of a career in medicine to pursue a film
career. While his previous films are virtually unknown outside
America, The Sixth Sense has gained international release. Shyamalan
directs with the assurance and confidence of a film maker in complete
command of his material, and this eerie thriller heightens
expectations for his next film.
It is a little surprising that a film devoid of the usual
Hollywood trappings of big effects, pyrotechnics, chases and lots of
violence, has done so well at the box office. But then again, as with
the superb Ghost, its central theme of mortality strikes a personal
and deeply emotional chord with the audience.
Copyright © 2000 Greg King