The Sixth Sense Review
By Joe Lozito
Scare and Scare a Tyke
It's bad enough being a small, quiet eleven-year-old - the only child of an overworked single mother - without having visions of dead people. This is the problem facing young Cole Sear in the psychological thriller "The Sixth Sense". The film is being billed as though it were a horror film which, in actuality, is very misleading. Though it does contain some genuine scares, the film itself builds as slowly and methodically as the relationship between child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) and Cole, his patient.
Mr. Willis gives a surprisingly quiet performance. There are moments when he actually breaks through his trademark smirk to emote some genuine laughter and, to a lesser extent, tears. The real break-through performance in the film is given by the 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment as Cole. Never falling into the standard "precious little boy" role, Mr. Osment's tiny face manages to register the fear of a young child confronted with some very frightening visions, as well the understanding of someone five times his age. In real life, children are never given enough credit - they always seems to know more than they let on. In "Sense", Mr. Osment not only seems to know more than an 11-year-old should, he seems to know more than anyone else in the film as well.
Many nagging questions come up throughout the film, the specifics of which are better left unsaid. In fact, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan is baiting the viewer. Mr. Shyamalan has an explanation planned for the end of the film which is at once startling and perfectly in keeping with the tone of the film. It's as if there were only one possible option for an ending, and Mr. Shyamalan came up with a third. One that rewards the viewer for rapt attention. In his subversive way, Mr. Shyamalan forces the viewer to re-watch all the major events in the film and re-interpret the moments and the characters. And there are some memorable characters thanks to fine performances by Olivia Williams (beautiful and charming again after "Rushmore") as Dr. Crowe's estranged wife and Ms. Collette, turning 180 degrees since her debut in "Muriel's Wedding".
It takes some time to get past the "who the heck cast Bruce Willis as a child psychologist?" question. However, once the movie gets going, and certainly once it starts unraveling towards the end, that question becomes a distant memory. At that point, there are many more things to worry about.