9 – The Sixth Sense

Do you see dead people? When you’re alone in your house late at night, and you turn off the television, do you ever get an eerie, fleeting feeling that someone else is there? That unnerving burst of silence is jarring, but thankfully for most of us it quickly ends, not a lingering fade but a sudden now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t disappearance.

Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) sees dead people. Only he sees them in the flesh, just as they were when they died. Imagine growing up that way, seeing something like that and not understanding it, not knowing how to deal with it. Most people can recall from their youth one or more children who were misunderstood, who were a little unusual, who were treated differently (or mistreated) by their classmates. Every waking moment of Cole’s brief life is unbearable, filled with terror behind every door. And his sleep is punctuated by endless nightmares.

Cole needs help, but he can’t reveal his terrible secret to anyone, even his mother. His savior, the only one to whom the boy feels a kinship, is world-weary, embattled psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis, perfectly underplaying his role for a change). But it’s not enough for Dr. Crowe to help Cole to deal with his problem, to convince him that it’s all in his head (as one would suspect a real psychologist would do); he must help Cole figure out why these dead beings appear to him – what they want and what he can do to make them go away.

There’s so much detail in this movie that one viewing simply isn’t enough to take it all in. By now, you’ve probably heard there is a surprise ending – don’t worry I’m not going to ruin it for you – and multiple viewings will allow you to pick up some of the clues M. Night Shyamalan (who directed and wrote the screenplay) has left. This is a one of a kind scary movie – the kind that will leave all the hairs in your body standing on end when you’re done watching it and an overall sense of dread and uneasiness for days afterwards. Osment is a true find, mesmerizing as the haunted Cole; you believe every word he says. And Willis – well, let’s just say it’s not a typical role for the bald-pated action star. Personally, I think Willis has been a little too maligned for his acting. His thespian style here is a perfect complement to Osment, allowing the younger actor to take center stage. And praise should be heaped on Shyamalan, too. His screenplay is virtually flawless, brimming with atmosphere and more twists than you can shake an Agatha Christie novel at. This, folks, is magnificent filmmaking.

PRO: Osment, screenplay, Willis, dialog, acting, directing, EVERYTHING

CON: Umm..

The Sixth Sense: 9


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