Director: M. Night Shyamalan
“A ghost story of the highest order, The Sixth Sense works on many levels.” (876, Joanna Berry, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
There are some films that if you don’t see them when they come out you are bound to inadvertently learn the twist about them and The Sixth Sense (along with most of M. Night Shyamalan’s back catalogue) is most definitely one of these films, Shutter Island (2010, Martin Scorsese) is another film like this – whether you read the book first or see the film first the twist is spoiled. Sadly I was only 11 when The Sixth Sense came out and since then have become not only obsessed with film but did a film degree so I went into this knowing what the twist was, which somewhat spoiled the film. Not that The Sixth Sense is a bad film because it really isn’t, just that the tension was diffused by already having knowledge of what the twist was.
It’s so nice to see Bruce Willis in a more dramatic, straight acting role rather than as an action hero. Indeed there is little, to no ‘action’ in The Sixth Sense, so you get to see a completely different side to Willis. His Dr Malcolm Crowe is professional and yet at the same time comes to actually care about Cole. They both have a profound affect on each other at a crucial stage in their lives.
Surprisingly I was impressed rather than irrationally annoyed with the young Cole, which I’m grateful for because he is very much the driving force of the film. Haley Joel Osment is brilliant as Cole – he has just enough vulnerability that you want to protect him rather than being a cloying cry-baby. Even a young Mischa Barton was actually pretty good.
“The spooks are there as Cole is visited by tormented apparitions, but this is more emotional drama than scary suspense film.” (876) Berry is right – this is more of a drama than a scary movie. That’s not to say there aren’t some jumpy moments. Those involving Barton’s unhappy ghost stand out in my mind but then they are linked to arguably one of the most well known ‘catchphrases’ (for lack of a better word) to come out of recent cinema.
“His clever use of muted colors and subtle hints of what is to come – the temperature dropping when a ghost is present, the use of the color red – and the twist in the tale are so neat that you want to reappraise the film rather than be annoyed that you have been led down a completely different path than the one you thought you were on. A modern, emotionally complex classic that is as achingly poignant as it is chillingly tense.” (876)
I found The Sixth Sense engaging even with knowledge of the twist – I can only imagine what it was like to watch it that first time with no inkling of what was coming. It’s a film worth watching and I hope I haven’t given anything away to those yet to watch it.