The Sixth Sense is a summer blockbuster that has restored
my faith in films. After a rather disappointing crop of studio hits – the
plot-less Phantom Menace, the clever but re-treading Austin Powers 2,
the stylish but unsubstantial Blair Witch Project, the annoying Matrix,
the botched 13th Warrior – along comes The Sixth Sense with an
excellent plot, good acting, and best of all, a sense of pace that is nearly a
lost art in films today.
The film stars Bruce Willis. The Sixth Sense overcomes
this hurdle through its sheer excellence of script and the acting of Haley Joel
Osment, most recently seen as a boy dying of cancer on an episode of Ally
McBeal. As a child actor, Osment is simply remarkable in his role as the
"gifted" boy who, as all the ads remind you, can "see dead
The plot revolves around the efforts of Willis’ child
psychiatrist, Malcolm Crowe, to help the Osment’s Cole Sear. Cole, who keeps his
special ability a secret from everyone, including his mother Lynn (Toni Collette)
and Crowe for more than half the film, doesn’t think that Crowe can help him.
But Crowe has a special drive to succeed with Cole; at the beginning of the
film, he is confronted by a former patient (Donnie Wahlberg) who claims that
Crowe failed with him, and after shooting Crowe, the patient kills himself. A
year later, a haunted Crowe latches on to Cole’s case, determined not to fail
To be fair, Willis’ performance is fine, though it requires
little interaction with anyone except Osment, who shines so brightly in his role
that he almost eclipses anyone else in the scene. Though it doesn’t show in the
more cheesy roles, such as the Ally McBeal episode, Osment has a gift for
acting that should make him one of the greats, if he survives the switch from
child actor to adult. Regardless of the future, however, Osment deserves to be
nominated for an Oscar for his performance in this film.
Also excellent is Collette as Osment’s harried,
end-of-her-rope single mother. Though exasperated with her son’s mysterious
behavior, Lynn is always loving and determined to do her best.
One other thing…yes, the film has an excellent ending, as I’m
sure anyone who’s seen the film has mentioned to you. Perhaps they even goofed
and told it to you. Well, don’t let the deter you from seeing the film. The
ending is just the icing on the cake; actually, it’s just the roses on the cake
Credit for the script and the directing goes to 28-year-old M.
Night Shyamalan, whose work I will look for in the future (Shyamalan himself can
be seen in a cameo as a doctor who mistakenly suspects Lynn may be abusing
Cole). Also deserving credit is film editor Andrew Mondshein for helping with
the marvelous pacing of the film, which adds to the creepy, eloquent feel of the
film. One of my favorite touches is the opening credits, which fade in and out,
ghostly against the black background, before a single shot is seen. It gives a
sense of dramatic suspense as well as building anticipation for a good film.
Remember when all films used to be so reserved? Me neither.