The Sixth Sense
Over the last forty years or so I have seen a lot of movies. Many of these movies have been suspense thrillers. I thought I have seen it all until I saw The Sixth Sense. An average thriller has characters that you can almost believe. The audience has some sense of identification with the ones in peril. An above average thriller adds imaginative twists in the plot that keeps the viewers guessing at all times. Now, the exception thriller, the rarest of them all, adds to this production value that catapults it into a great film of any genre. When the subplots are interesting on their own and add to the story rather than just provide filler between the shocks. The Sixth Sense is the most extraordinary example of such a superior film. The story follows a child psychologist, Malcolm Crowe, incredible played by Bruce Willis, who tries to help an alienated and sullen young boy (Haley Joel Osment). Crowe had been shot by a patient that he was unable to help and has been second-guessing himself ever since. Crowe distances himself from his beautiful wife He watches almost impersonally as his marriage disintegrates. He is torn between saving his marriage and helping the boy. Both are important to him and he deeply feels that he cannot do both, that his two goals are mutually exclusive. The young boy, Cole, is extremely introverted. He is bright and should be an popular boy but all of his classmates, teachers and just about everyone in his life thinks of him as a freak. He is consumed by his dark thoughts. He draws pictures of physical attacks, writes about killing and murder and has to hide what is going on in him so as not to draw attention to himself. Crowe is desperate to gain the boys trust so he can help him and in some way make up for the patient that grew up to shoot him and kill himself. Cole has a loving mother, Lynn, (Toni Collette) whose frustration grows as not only must she stand by helpless as her only child descends into depression but she is even accused of abusing the boy. As this masterpiece builds the audience is witness to a remarkable journey into the unseen, dark places that plague the boy. The scenes between mother and son are tender, believable and provide such a human foundation that the audience truly cares about the characters. She wants so badly to help her son but finds herself unable to get into that dark portion of his life.
If you were to go by what you know about these actors, or think you know about them, you might not choose to watch the film. Bruce Willis is best known for action films. His costumes are more frequently torn, bloody tee shirts rather then the three-piece suits he sports here. Willis shows his ability to truly act in this movie. He evokes an emotional depth that not only does he not often show in his typical films but that is not often seen at all. Willis really seems to relate to his young co-star. There is chemistry there that carries the movie to new heights of cinema. Willis should break away from the action genre, after all, he is getting older, and find more scripts like this one. It will not only benefit his career but will benefit the movie going audience as well. The star of this film in every sense of the word is young Haley Joel Osment. Formerly of the TV show The Jeff Foxworthy Show and his part as the son of Forrest Gump, Osment displays control far beyond his years. Although he loss his Oscar bid for 1999, this young man is destine to have many, many gold awards on his mantle as he continues in his craft. Most child actors are there for comic relief, to heighten peril or to add some novel twist on an old theme. In the Sixth Sense Osment drives the movie. His control of his voice, body language and facial expressions is without a doubt the envy of much older actors. Rather then the monotone voice of most actors his age, Osment has a vocal range that holds your attention even in the softest whisper. Add to this an excellent supporting cast and you almost forget you are watching a film.
Very often what takes a film from above average to extraordinary is the director. M. Night Shyamalan. Every scene is well crafted, framed like a gothic masterpiece. While this director is new to movies he also should achieve greatness as his career develops. His cuts, segues and use of music weave a tapestry of intricate detail. Little details so subtle that you must watch this movie several times to get them all, add a distinct flavor to this film. Terror builds as the film progresses. It rarely jumps out at you but rather it grows like a small, disquieting feeling of dread. He takes you on a trip into a tunnel that you know holds danger. You know something is coming but you are drawn to it. He also employs the time honored cinematic technique of the leitmotif. Here, color is the important visual que to the story. Notice the appearance of the color red throughout the film. It will give a clue to the climax.
The disc itself is well done but has some flaws. First, you have to go through a series of previews before you get to the main menu. There is no directors commentary and this film screams for one. The features that are there are a bit mundane. The best of the lot is the extended ending. I still would have liked a commentary as to why it was finally cut back. What was included was very light in details. The section of 'Rules and Clues' was excellent in explaining a lot of the film and should only be viewed after seeing the movie. The anamorphic picture is crisp and clear. The Dolby 5.1 sound is also very effective. The soundtrack enfolds you as you are drawn into the film. This picture deserved far more awards than it got. Dont miss this film.