The Sixth Sense Review
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 85%
My rating: Full Price!!
This is another M. Night Shyamalan film, and another film you have to be careful not to spoil, although the very action of reviewing this is fairly useless as you’ve either seen it or are about to come across it. For those who haven’t seen it, run out there and watch it before some dick spoils it for you.
So on to looking at this thing.
Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a child psychologist fresh from being awarded for his services. That night he and his wife, Anna (Olivia Williams), celebrate and go to bed. They are broken into by a failed former patient who proceeds to shoot Malcolm and himself. Months later Crowe visits Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a young boy who has many identical problems to his earlier patient and so Crowe starts down a path of self-redemption. As his relationship with his wife becomes increasingly distant, he finds himself growing closer to Cole.
The film boasts a powerful Oscar-nominated performance from Osment, but every actor is strong here, Williams’ acting is excellent for the scenes she is in and Bruce, as ever, is excellent outside of the action roles. Once again, Bruce interacts well with the estranged wife, conveying a poignant feeling of loss between them. Toni Collette plays an excellent dissociated mother, a parent who has tried her best but childhood insecurity is holding back her ability to comfort her child. This film is a character study of what death, grief, and insecurity can bring to the table.
Now, when it comes to Shyamalan movies you really have to look at it technically. Not the CGI or any of that but the feel we get from everything on screen. As with all his films we have excellent cinematography, lingering just as long as is needed, with just enough room on screen and perfect framing. At the very beginning there is an excellently shot clip of Cole’s handprint disappearing from the table. Just little bits like that make us feel in safe hands.
The score is minimal, almost a little too underplayed. It works well in the first section but when it comes to the shocks it becomes any generic strings scrape from a slasher movie. This, however, shifts back as the shocks subside to something more touching. The music hits the perfect note during a scene where Cole’s mother stands in front of a set of pictures which show him with ectoplasmic entities beside him everywhere he goes. It is apparent that these are ghosts. But it almost feels more than ghosts, something about the music and image reminds me of the speech about god always being by us. That footprints in the sand jargon.
So all this now boils down to execution, everything is working excellently in tandem but execution remains the stick holding the plates up. And once again, it’s a matter of speed.
The film is slow but not drawn out, lengthy, painful, or wearying. It is 110 minutes, well below today’s average length of 129 minutes. It’s just a case of slow and steady wins the race. It takes a good fifty minutes before the famous reveal that actually starts events in motion. From here on it becomes a building fright fest, building tensions to the end. However, the film is not that shallow. The frights increase but so do the character tensions. This is another quiet Willis film. It is, again, about self discovery.
So you’re fifty minutes in. Now’s where the ectoplasm really hits the fan. If you were ever a weird or quirky kid at school you have undoubtedly had some bully say ‘I see dead people’ in an attempt to mock you. This just shows how far the roots of this film have spread. It is probably the 1990s most quoted cinematic moment.
The first ghost appearance is incredibly shocking and off-putting. I always feel weird with children playing strange children. There’s just something strange about the whole process. For instance how do you make a child who was eleven at the time respond in such a creepy way? There’s just something about the child creep that puts me on edge. It is one of the finest performances that I have seen from a child star and, yes, I am including the useless Daniel Radcliffe. Excellent child acting with a strong feeling of reality. The scares get steadily more unsettling, children who spew vomit, others shot by their father, women who make Two-Face look like Errol Flynn.
But that’s the turn. Well one. Slowly Cole has to become closer to the ghosts and begins helping them wherever he can with kindness or actual aid. There is a scene where Cole delivers a videotape from a dead girl to her father which really is very intense. Lo and behold though, it’s none other than Mischa Barton in one of her first roles. I must admit that her playing a dead child is one of the more interesting roles. Sure went downhill from there.
But Cole himself says, in a perfectly laid hint, “You have to add some twists and stuff.” So on to the final twist. If you haven’t seen the movie and have somehow not heard it on movie sites or programmes, or 100 Greatest Moments, I will not be the one to break it to you. But this twist leaves you going ‘madre de Dios!’ and picking up the remote to rewind the film and give it a second check through. You go back through, trying to find a flaw with the twist, but it is excellently worked through. This is Shyamalan’s trademark; make the audience twist to see that your twist is perfectly straight.
This movie is one that has already gone down in history, and will probably remain there. It is the god of ghost movies and shows every actor in it at their best. There’s nothing to hate.