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Movie Review

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense
Haley Joel Osment (left) and Bruce Willis in "The Sixth Sense"

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Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material and violent images. 1 hour, 47 minutes.
Publication date: Aug. 6, 1999
Review by Jim Shelby
Released: (1999)

This disturbing thriller is distinguished by the moving performance of Haley Joel Osment, who plays Cole, a boy whose life is tortured by his ability to see and hear dead people. They don't seem to know they're dead, and only Cole acknowledges their existence. And he desperately wishes they'd visit someone else.

You've seen Osment before: He was young Forrest Gump in the leg braces ("Run Forrest, run!"). He brings the agony of private fears to his face and body with some heartbreaking work here, reminding us that being a child is not always fun and games.

Playing opposite Osment is Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, giving his most underplayed performance in memory. As a child psychologist trying to cure Cole's "delusions," he becomes obsessed with what he considers his chance to redeem himself and right a wrong he inflicted on a patient 10 years earlier.

Directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan (who also wrote the screenplay for the forthcoming "Stuart Little"), there is a melancholy feel about the entire film that lasts longer than the viewing. Using lots of rainy, wet visuals throughout Philadelphia, Shyamalan portrays a world that creaks with ancient images. There is a horrific early scene in which Malcolm's former patient Vincent (Donnie Wahlberg from "New Kids on the Block") pays a visit to him and his wife. The tragedy of this severely disturbed individual infuses its way into the wallpaper, and neither Willis nor we can shake it for the rest of the film.

Cole's mother is played by the wonderful Toni Collette (Muriel in "Muriel's Wedding"), who is given plenty to do here. Her face often rips apart with emotion like cheap wrapping paper, and her love for and frustration with her haunted boy is clearly eating her up.

Now, a warning: I was happy enough with the writing, acting and cinematography, but then there's this shockeroo that has you questioning everything you saw in the whole darn story. I came out smiling because they got me, but also feeling a bit ripped-off. Suffice to say you should pay close attention throughout the movie, because you'll want to replay it later in your head. It's a clever marketing ploy, leaving everyone who was sucked into the story anxious to see it again.

Remember: The dead only see what they want to see.

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