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The Sixth Sense

Starring: Bruce Willis
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Thriller
Year: 1999
Rating: 4 / 5

When referring to the Bruce Willis thriller The Sixth Sense, words cannot do justice to the true essence of the film. This shocking tale, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is one of the most intelligent horror movies to come along in years, and it leaves the viewer awestruck long after the film's riveting conclusion. Far from a star vehicle for its famous lead actor, The Sixth Sense is instead driven by the commanding presence of eleven-year-old Haley Joel Osment, magnificent in the role of gifted child Cole Sear. His performance, one of the best by a child that I have ever beheld, powers this thriller, but it is only part of what sets it apart from other films in its genre.

During the winter holiday season one year, Malcolm Crowe (Willis), a successful Philadelphia child psychiatrist, is shot in his home by an angry former patient (Donnie Wahlberg), upset that Malcolm did not help him as promised. Flash forward nine months, and we see that Malcolm may be physically recovered from his ordeal, but the emotional demons still linger. It seems that Malcolm has never been able to forgive himself for "the one that got away." In an effort to dispel his own demons and help a child with a similar affliction, Malcolm takes on the case of Cole Sear (Osment), a troubled child without a friend in the world.

Cole Sear is a child of divorce, raised by his hard-working mother Lynn (Toni Collette). Cole is the object of ridicule at school, as he is certainly "different" than the other children. He sees things, and hears things, that other people cannot. "I see dead people." These magnetic words, and the way Cole speaks this inner secret, cause chills to run throughout the viewer. No one will believe him, and he is tired of trying to convince others of what he sees. He seems to have decided to keep this secret to himself, and deal with his frightening problem on his own. That is, until Malcolm arrives to help him.

The Sixth Sense succeeds as a horror film and as a thriller because it challenges the viewer to think and not just scream. The chills here are more ethereal, and less tangible (though there are some scenes that visually startle the viewer.) Haley Joel Osment can simultaneously emote the kind, youthful naivete of a child and the tired, world-weary visage of someone who has born great hardship. Part of what makes his character so compelling is that he is someone for whom we can easily root. We empathize with his mother's plight, as she only wants to make life better for her child and to understand what is going on with him. But Cole's tale is a sorrowful one, that of a child fighting demons that no one else can see and which no one believes exist. I dare not say more, for the true rush from this film comes from the lengthy build-up and the harrowing revelations. See it, and you, too, will know why no one likes to be left alone...

Bruce Willis..........Malcolm Crowe
Haley Joel Osment..........Cole Sear
Toni Collette..........Lynn Sear
Olivia Williams..........Anna Crowe
Donnie Wahlberg..........Vincent Gray

Certification: Rated PG-13.
Running Time: 114 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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