The Sixth Sense (1999)

Not every gift is a blessing.

A psychological thriller about an eight year old boy named Cole Sear who believes he can see into the world of the dead. A child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe comes to Cole to help him deal with his problem, learning that he really can see the ghosts of dead people.

The Sixth Sense phenomenon.
Child psychiatrist Malcolm Crowe takes on the case of a deeply troubled boy named Cole Sear. At first Cole is reluctant to be helped, but as Malcolm gets closer to the boy, Malcolm learns the root of Cole's fears, he claims he sees ghosts.
The Sixth Sense was a monster hit back in 1999, a deftly crafted ghost story with a kicker that was talked about by all and sundry, the box office bulged and the critics did rave. Nowadays you will find hundreds of people proclaiming that the film is boringly formulaic, that they worked out the film's premise easily in the first quarter of the film, or that the film is a mere cliché, funny how I don't remember it like that back in 1999! The box office bulged because many went to see the film more than once, they went (myself included) back to see just how director M. Night Shyamalan (Academy Award Nominated Best Director) managed to bluff us and pull the rug from under our feet. I remember vividly both times I saw it in the cinema, the crucial turning point of the piece bringing a collective audible gasp from the viewers sunken in their respective seats, that's the sort of impact that carries a film's reputation far and wide, and that's the reason why I will never rate the film lower than 10/10.
Repeat viewings of The Sixth Sense obviously dim its star appeal because we know the tricks of the directors trade, but the film still ranks to me as one of the best of its type for so many other reasons rarely mentioned. The writing from Shyamalan (Academy Award Nominated Best Screenplay) is surprisingly complex, the piece masquerading as a horror picture is emotionally charged, linking children with the paranormal through loss and a need for understanding, the need for closure of unresolved differences, but chiefly and crucial to the film's heart is the message of connection before it's too late.
The performances are incredible, Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe is perfectly understated, all the pointers for the denouement are there for us to see, but such is the actors performance, and we now know he is cutely having to play his cards close to his chest, are hidden from us until the revisit of the picture reveals it all. Hayley Joel Osment (Academy Award Nominated Best Supporting Actor) is wonderful, for a child performance in a film of this type to not be over sentimental, is quite an achievement. Sympathetic Cole may be, but Osment never lets it become less than the accepted level of child vulnerability. Rounding out the great trio of leads is Toni Collette (Academy Award Nominated Best Supporting Actress) as Cole's mother, Lynn, fabulous in portraying the love and confusion in Cole's troubled world, this story arc between the two is expertly realised. The direction from Shyamalan is very restrained, forgoing out and out shock value for periods of disquiet, he uses sounds to make the audience sense the unease unfolding in this creepy tale, while his camera work, full of draw ins and pull outs-and subtle side shifts, is adroitly in tone with the narrative. The score from James Newton Howard flits beautifully between the uneasy periods and the sustained moments of query, while Tak Fujimoto's cinematography puts a gorgeous funereal texture over this part of Philadelphia.
If you haven't seen it then don't believe the naysayers, because The Sixth Sense deserved every penny/cent it made, its a wonderful, creepy, and yes, at times, a beautiful picture. A film that still ranks as one of the best ghost stories ever crafted. 10/10

Spyglass Entertainment, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Hollywood Pictures, Barry Mendel Productions by M. Night Shyamalan.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams.

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Keywords: philadelphia child abuse loss of loved one sense of guilt confidence psychology dying and death marriage crisis afterlife single paranormal phenomena cowardliness single mother school play ghost child spiritism ghost child

08/06/1999

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