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The Sixth Sense

Review by Jason Morrison

Have you ever wondered what keeps all those small, artsy theaters open- the ones with marquees full of films you can't pronounce, let alone name? Between this summer's Blair Witch Project (reviewed last week) and now The Sixth Sense, you no longer have to wonder.

Blair Witch leaves a lot of viewers disappointed or even sick to their stomachs, but everyone has to admit it's at least different. Sixth Sense will do neither- but it does seem more at home at the Strand than the Lennox 24.

Sixth Sense is very accessible- it has very clean, subtly artistic direction and production values. It is a very easy film to watch. But unlike your standard mix of action, romantic comedy, and even "Shakespeare In Love"s, it is intensely character driven and very well written. And it boasts acting talent to match.

Bruce Willis is psychologist Malcolm Crowe, a very successful therapist with a devoted wife Anna (Olivia Williams). But there's one little boy Malcolm just couldn't help, and when that boy, now a very disturbed man, shows up with a gun, Malcolm faces death and failure all in one.

Months later he comes into contact with a boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) who's case seems very similar to his former patient's. Malcolm sees not only a little boy in need of help, but also a way to redeem himself- if he can help Cole, then it will perhaps somehow make up for the one he couldn't. Maybe then he'll regain the confidence he lost, and the love of Anna, whom he can't seem to face anymore.

Cole has a lot of reasons to be unhappy. His father recently left him and his mother, Lynn (Toni Collette); his peers make fun of him; and he's very perceptive and sensitive. But Malcolm soon finds out that all of this is nothing compared to his one secret- and Malcolm must earn the boy's trust before he can find out what that secret is.

Since you've probably seen the previews, I'm not ruining the movie by saying that Cole's secret is that he sees ghosts- the chilling line from the commercial, Cole's whispered "I see dead people," is quite a powerful scene even though you know it's coming.

But Malcolm and Cole must figure out what these sometimes terrifying visions are, if Cole is to live without fear. And Malcolm must figure out what has gone wrong with his life, and what he must do.

This is one of those movies that makes you like Willis. Not to say he's spectacular, but he is good, and fits into the part beautifully. Collette, who is not a huge name as an actress, gives a very large performance-her love for her son is unconditional, and the little touches of inside humor she shares with him (a brilliant piece of writing) are so authentic.

But the biggest treat for me in the entire film was Osment as Cole. The kid was incredible. It would have been so easy for his part to fall into the cheese of normal kid acting- it's a credit again to M. Night Shyamalan (who wrote and directed the film) that he wrote a child's part so seriously, but Osment really takes the part and runs with it. He acts with the gravity that scared, smart kids really have- a gravity a lot of people don't even notice in real life, and you don't see in most films. It would be a mistake to say that he makes you see through a child's eyes, because that's such a corny line. But he brings you into his experience. I wish they would have found this kid to play Anakin in Star Wars, not that he would have had lines anywhere near the quality in this film. Osment should be nominated for an Oscar.

Sometimes when reviewers decry the lack of character development in movies, people ask, "what is character development then?" Watch the characters in this movie. Just watch, and see if you don't find them real.

And if you've read any other reviews, you've no doubt heard about the surprise twist ending. I read two reviews that actually compared it to The Crying Game. This is ludicrous. Summarizing this movie as a film with a surprise ending does a terrible disservice to the overall quality. This is not a one-trick movie.


(Out of five)

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