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The Sixth Sense (1999) – Movie Review


Written and Directed by: M. Might Shyamalan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Willis) is a man with problems. Although widely recognized for his prowess as a child psychologist, he has achieved this level much to the neglect of his wife (Williams), who still loves him nonetheless. Their lives are changed forever when a former patient of his, Vincent (Wahlberg), breaks into their house, accuses Crowe of failing him, and then shoots the doctor. More than a year passes, and the still psychologically scarred Crowe receives a new patient, the young boy Cole (Osment), who exhibits some of the same disorders that Vincent did. Determined not to fail a second time, he tries to assist the obviously tormented boy with his damaging secret.

This is a painfully flawed film–painful because its fine premise, that of a young boy who can perceive the spirits of the dead walking among us, is never given the justice it is due. The pacing is ponderous at best and since we can’t be trusted to recognize some of the more “scary moments,” James Newton Howard is there to give us nice little musical stings just to make sure we jump. Unnecessary and invasive.

[ad#longpost]We have two parallel plots here, one for Willis’ character and one for Osment’s. They are both necessary to the film itself, but they are very very off-balance. Bruce Willis’ performance is so understated you wonder sometimes if he’s actually awake. It is when we finally are allowed to witness the world of the young Cole that things begin to become interesting. His visitors in the night provide not only the creepiest moments of the film, but also stories much more interesting and chilling than the one we’re in–such as the young girl Kyra (Mischa Barton), who has a message from beyond the grave.

As for Osment himself, he delivers some of the creepiest lines you’ll see on screen this year. When you see him following one of his “visits”– haggard, trembling and on the verge of weeping — you can’t help but feel for this kid. Also, he is acting his ass off, more than almost everyone else in the pic, with the exception of Collette. She plays a thankless role as Cole’s mother, a woman who is completely out of her depth dealing with her son’s affliction–and she does the part much justice. I just wish they could have had their story coupled with a more interesting one for Willis. A fascinating premise with lots of unrealized potential and a very interesting ending can’t quite make up for such a long wait for the finish line–but Osment does his best with what he was given. Rent it.

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