The Sixth Sense

Review #278
A Kennedy/Marshall/Barry Mendel Production, 1999
Mov No. 36763
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Staring: Haley Joel Osment, Bruce Willis, Toni Collette
Oscars: 6 Nominations (Picture, Supporting Actor (Haley Joel Osment), Supporting Actress (Toni Collette), Director, Original Screenplay, Film Editing)
AFI 100 years, 100 _____ tributes: Quotes (#44); Thrills (#60); Movies 10th Aniv. (#89)
AFI quote #44: "I see dead people." - Cole Sear

Rating: 5/5


Ghost and goblins and things that go bump in the night have scared the pants off little children for years. Some of us were scared of the shadows on the bedroom wall, while others were scared of the dark. Young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) has a dark and terrible secret, but to everyone else, he is just a very confused and troubled little boy.

As the picture opens, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is having an intimate night at home with his wife. He has just won an award from the Mayor for being a great and valuable psychiatrist. But as they enter their bedroom, they are surprised by Vincent Grey (Donnie Wahlberg), a grown adult whom Malcolm tried to help years before as a child. Vincent wants revenge for Malcolm's failures, and shoots the good doctor in the gut.

We flash forward several months. It is the next fall, and Malcolm sits on a park bench waiting for his next case. That case happens to be young Cole Sear. Malcolm engages Cole, but the youngster is reluctant to confide his troubles.

As time goes by, Dr. Malcolm and Cole develop a friendship. Cole finally feels safe enough to divulge his terrible secret. Tears welling up in his eyes, Cole lets it all out.

With an eerie chill, he tells Malcolm: "I see dead people."

Malcolm is reluctant to believe Cole's story at first, but as the clues fall into place, Malcolm realises that Cole is telling the truth. He can see that there is something haunting and terrifying the poor kid. Malcolm must help Cole before he looses his fragile, young mind.

What happens next is something you must see for yourself. No doubt you've already heard the end of the movie, or you know what's what. It can't be said what will happen for that is what the magic of the movies is: surprises, thrills and chills.

The film as a whole is masterfully directed but M. Night Shyamalan, who uses subtle details and visual cues to create a fantastic, thrilling and suspenseful film even Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.

The visual touches are only part of the power the film; it is the acting performances that bring to life this amazing film.

For an 11 year old, Haley Joel Osment is absolutely stunning with the pure power and raw emotion of his haunting and chilling performance. He gives an Oscar worthy performance, and was absolutely robbed of the Oscar that eventually went to Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules. The power of Osment's performance will leave you absolutely chilled to the bone.

On the opposite side, Bruce Willis gives the performance of his career (Die Hard aside) as the doctor charged with helping young Cole Sear. Normally an action hero, Willis plays against type with a subtle performance that does not show as much emotion as Haley Joel does, but never the less provides the balance needed to keep the film from going overboard to the cheesy side.

Toni Collette (as Cole's mother) and Donnie Wahlberg (Vincent) also give terrific performances.

The Sixth Sense was released in August, 1999, but wasn't huge in it's first week. However, once word got around, the film took off. It was a sensation, and deservedly so. The ending so shocked and amazed, the masses kept coming back to see the film over again.

The film went on to become one of the most Iconic films of the 1990's, and indeed, one of the most iconic films of all time. Haley Joel Osment's performance is already legendary, and will be remember years from now for just how good he actually was, and for his most famous line.

Have you seen the dead people?