“Making Sense of ‘Sense'”
by Scott Mantz
“The Sixth Sense”
Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
This has certainly been a summer full of surprises, some good and others not-so-good. On the not-so-good side we have “The Haunting”, which did anything but that at the box office. On the good side, “The Blair Witch Project” came out of nowhere and scared the willies out of us, and the timely “Arlington Road” brought a real threat home, with a killer ending to boot. Well, you can add another film to the good side. “The Sixth Sense” is an intensely-paced, smart supernatural thriller that could be the sleeper hit of the summer.
Oh, there’s one more surprise–Bruce Willis can really act! Actually, you’ve got to admire Willis. He knows how to play the Hollywood game. Just when you’ve had enough of his mind-numbing “paycheck” films, he gets back to basics and re-discovers his acting chops. He did it back in 1994. After a string of flops he did a little movie called “Pulp Fiction”, which gave him some of the best reviews of his career. Even though “Armageddon” made a ton of cash, he hasn’t had much to be proud of lately (see “Mercury Rising”? Me neither.).
Malcome Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a child psychologist in Philadelphia who tries to unlock the mind of the imaginative Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). It seems young Cole can see dead people as easily as we see the people around us. He doesn’t know why, and he keeps his secret from everyone, including his frustrated, but well-meaning, mother. Crowe, out to redeem himself after a botched experience with a previous patient, is willing to take all the time he needs to help the boy, even at the expense of his own marriage.
Director Shyamalan effectively sets the mood of dread with an intense style that would make Chris Carter (“The X-Files”) proud. Osment turns in a sympathetic and, dare I say it, Oscar-worthy performance as the tortured boy, and we feel for him as he finally opens up to Willis. The sense of redemption Crowe feels in helping the young boy is intense, made so perhaps by Willis’ own desire to redeem himself as an actor. As a result, Willis gives an excellent, understated, and compassionate performance.
“The Sixth Sense” is one of those films that you think you know as you go along, but it pulls the rug right out from under you in one of the best surprise endings to come along in some time. The intensity builds, but no matter how hard you try, you cannot see it coming. However, pay attention. When you go back and think about it, all the clues leading up to the finale are right there in front of you, making sense after all.