Title: The Sixth Sense
Release Date: August 6, 1999
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Production Company: Hollywood Pictures | Spyglass Entertainment | The Kennedy/Marshall Company | Barry Mendel Productions
In the summer of 1999, The Sixth Sense seemingly came out of nowhere to be a BIG! HUGE! DEAL! that everyone was talking about. The biggest thing that people talked about was the movie’s SHOCKING TWIST! Getting the gist of what the film was about – a child who saw the ghosts of dead people – it was pretty easy to put 2 and 2 together and figure out the SHOCKING TWIST on my own. So, I had no interest in ever seeing the movie.
It turns out, The Sixth Sense is actually a pretty good movie and like The Crying Game before it, overemphasizing the SHOCKING TWIST does a disservice to the movie. Knowing the SHOCKING TWIST, I was impressed that the movie is told from the point of view of Bruce Willis’ character, a child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe. Crowe takes an interest in a troubled child, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who reminds him of another patient he feels he failed to help. If you know the SHOCKING TWIST is coming, the clues are all there and director M. Night Shyamalan even includes a gag with Crowe performing a terrible magic trick which lampshades the idea of misdirection.
What I like about this movie is that it is a story of empathy. What Crowe helps Cole to realize with his ability to see the ghosts of the troubled dead that he can help them instead of fearing them. And, along the way, Cole helps Crowe as well, in ways that aren’t readily apparent until the close of the film. There’s a lot of talking in this film and it works because Haley Joel Osment is up to portraying a child believably participating in those conversations (poor Jake Lloyd must’ve looked like an even worse child actor having The Sixth Sense released in the same year as The Phantom Menace). Shyamalan also does a great job of incorporating Philadelphia as a character in the movie, especially as a historic city with lots and lots of troubled dead people.
The Sixth Sense is thoughtful, full of heart, and overall is well done. It’s definitely worth seeing at least once, but I wouldn’t put it on my Top 100 of all time list.