Sunday, July 15, 2012

#699. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette

Tag line: "There are ghosts walking among us, looking for help... They have found it"

Trivia: This was the first of two movies that Bruce Willis owed Disney after he caused another production, "The Broadway Brawler", to be shut down due to him firing the director. He also was paid $10 million, half of his usual salary at the time

Moments after he and his wife Anna (Olivia Williams) return home from a night out, child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is attacked in his bedroom by former patient Vincent Gray (Donnie Wahlberg), who suffers from a complex disorder that Crowe was unable to treat during their sessions together. 

One year later, with Vincent still fresh in his mind, Crowe begins counseling a young boy named Cole (Haley Jole Osment), whose symptoms are similar to those that plagued Vincent. And while his dedication to Cole is causing a strain on his marriage, Crowe refuses to let another patient slip away from him. 

Then, just as Crowe begins wondering if he's once again in over his head, Cole reveals the true nature of his unusual "condition": he sees ghosts everywhere, some of whom even talk to him!

Director M. Night Shyamalan manages to generate a great deal of tension throughout The Sixth Sense by letting us see what many of his other characters cannot, namely the spirits that haunt Cole on a regular basis. One night, during a trip to the bathroom, Cole notices a light in the kitchen. Assuming it’s his mother (played by the always reliable Toni Collette), he walks down the hallway to investigate, only to be confronted by the angry ghost of a woman (Janis Dardaris) who, years earlier, had taken her own life. She shouts at Cole, showing him her mangled, bloodied wrists, at which point the terrified boy scrambles back to his room for safety. 

By revealing to his audience the nightmare that Cole is forced to deal with, which not even his mother understands, Shyamalan brings us inside his world of isolation and despair. The only person Cole can confide in is Dr. Crowe, who he hopes will somehow make these apparitions go away. 

As with Vincent, Crowe is at a loss. This time, however, he intends to stick it out. Perhaps he'll help the boy break free of the curse that is haunting him. Maybe, with Crowe's assistance, Cole might even discover it isn’t a “curse” after all.

Initially, I felt a bit short-changed by The Sixth Sense. With a topic as potentially limitless as communicating with the dead, the film could have easily veered off into many different, fascinating directions, and I found myself wishing it took the time to explore its own reality a little more closely. But much like his later works (including Unbreakable and Signs), Shyamalan uses the grand scope of his subject matter to relate a simple tale, rarely stretching beyond those borders. 

Upon reflection, I realized this is what made The Sixth Sense such an engaging motion picture, and despite all the discussion and analysis dedicated to its twist ending (which, admittedly, caught me off-guard the first time I saw the movie), it was the story of a troubled young boy, and the doctor trying to help him, that stayed with me.


Jeremy Bates said...

It was a long time ago when I saw this film, and the ending caught me off guard. I suppose by criticism of the flick would come from it being a bit too slow.

By the way, I am watching "Boiler Room" tonight as I have never seen it. I am looking forward to it.

SJHoneywell said...

The problem with this film is that it's rewatchable once. The first time you see it, the twist is shocking and awesome. The second time you see it, you see all of the foreshadowing of that twist. And then there's not much here.

I really prefer Stir of Echoes.

Anthony Lee Collins said...

I agree, the point is the movie as a whole, not the "twist ending." I knew the ending going in (I put together hints from different reviewers until I saw that it was the only possible answer), but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the film at all.

I wrote about that on my blog a while back:

I've liked some of his other films as well, including a couple of the ones that nobody likes. :-)

DVD Infatuation said...

Sorry, guys! Not sure how I missed replying on this one. But I definitely appreciate the comments.

Jeremy: Some may find it slow, but I was definitely into the movie. Let me know how you liked BOILER ROOM! I haven't seen it in a while, but I remember enjoying it (even though Ben Affleck's scenes felt a bit too "tacked on", and entirely unnecessary).

SJHoneywell: I still enjoy the movie on rewatch, mostly for the reasons stated above (the relationship between Cole and the Dr.). But I will agree that STIR OF ECHOES is a solid ghost movie, and one I definitely enjoyed.

Anthony: It's unfortunate that Shyamalan has become known for his twist endings (It's given him a reputation he can't possibly live up to). And they don't affect my enjoyment either (of some of them, anyway)

Thanks for posting the link. as always, a great write-up!