The sixth sense is like watching your reflection in a slowly flowing river on a cloudy day. You can instantly recognise the basic shapes of yourself and you surroundings, but a cool breeze ripples the water gently on the surface, until the once clear detail becomes blurred, concealing the real picture within. Yet right at the last minute the sun returns from its safe guard to reveal what was once hidden.
Do you know why you feel afraid when you’re alone? Do you know why it goes bitingly cold in the height of summer? Do you feel the presence of people who are no longer living? Cole Sear (Hayley Joel Osment) does. Seemingly a normal schoolchild, as the story unfolds, you see why he is not. He has a gift that allows him to see the recently deceased, who stayed in this world believing they are alive, as they had unfinished business.
Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) at the start of the film is visited by an ex-patient, Vincent Gray. Vincent turns up at his house in just his underwear, traumatised by what he sees, as he, like Cole, could se dead people. Blaming Crowe for his disturbed childhood, and saying he failed him, Vincent shoots Crowe before turning the gun on himself to end his misery.
One year later we see Crowe, who seems fully recovered from the previous year’s ordeal, meet Cole and try to help him, as he believes this will make up for his past failings with Vincent. The plot then twists and turns, with Crowe’s obsession with the case grows while he becomes increasingly estranged from his wife Anna (Olivia Williams) who doesn’t even speak to him anymore. Meanwhile, Cole fears his supernatural gift, begging Crowe to, “Please make them leave”.
With a story so dramatic and mysterious that leaves you guessing to the very end, and compelling characters, it’s no wonder The Sixth Sense was nominated for 37 awards, 6 of them Oscars, and won 31 of them. What was particularly good about this cleverly-constructed piece is that the atmospherically music played at all the right times, and then stopped making you move even further onto the edge of your seat. The colour red was cleverly placed in every relevant scene signalling the presence of ghosts, or hinting that something more scary is about to happen. It’s hard to believe this a debut film, as the use of camera angles suggests a much more experienced director. M. Night Shyamalan uses his knowledge of the camera well to keep you from realising the shock ending, while giving very subtle hints you don’t notice in the first viewing of the film, that when put together reveal the key to the story.
The characters were captivating with great performances all round, especially from the likes of Toni Collette who made a tender performance as Cole’s single mother, making the story more believable and bringing a character to the screen everyone can relate to. It was nice to see Bruce Willis leave behind his at times brutal man of action façade behind to go into a softer role as a man with so many complicated issues to deal with, and Willis adapted to it very well. But the best performance by far was by Osment who carried the film, making a very moving portrayal of the young boy at the heart of the story.
On the downside however, the film takes a while to build up pace, but once it does it stops too suddenly with the last scenes, quickly putting end to all the tension painstakingly built up throughout the beginning, leaving you slightly unsatisfied. Also, the use of the colour red, although a good thing in concept, was for my tastes over-used and almost exploited, when a lesser, more subtle dosage of the colour would have been enough to use as a hint.
Yet these somewhat minor flaws can be forgiven as the basic mistakes of a director with little experience, and put together with all the positives the film brings, the bad is pushed into the shadows. The quality of the film is superb and I would strongly recommend to everyone who hasn’t seen it already to watch it – it’s definitely worth it. Although the film ends after barely two hours, the story and morals that the film provides will stick with you in your mind for a long time after.