Movie Review By Heather Clisby
At last! Hollywood has given us a movie that despite including all the usual staple ingredients, resists the temptation to patronize. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, "The Sixth Sense" is not a perfect film but it is actually worth your time.
Bruce Willis commits some real acting without a firearm in portraying the sensitive but all-too-human child psychologist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe. His wife, Anna, played by the "Rushmore" love interest, Olivia Williams, supports his care for the patients despite his neglect of their marriage.
When Crowe takes on the case of eight-year-old Cole Sear, his workload suddenly becomes a lifestyle choice. Played by the gifted young actor, Haley Joel Osment, Cole has the frightening gift of seeing dead people who are not quite ready to believe their own death. These folks are not of the rotting-flesh-zombie variety but rather normal looking except for open wounds and other obvious discomforts. Cole naturally fears these visions and is afraid to tell anyone about his sight. He's a strong kid but loathes the idea of being looked at as a "freak."
Toni Collette will make you forget all about her title role in "Muriel's Wedding"; she really outdoes herself as Cole's mom, Lynn Sear. Here is a single mother who is trying her hardest to do right by her son but can't figure out what's going on. Her frustration is palpable but her love is so realistic - not all pink and squishy but a true partnership. One of the strongest scenes in the film is between mother and son; they sit in a car and, in his effort to let her in on his secret, the boy calmly passes on a message from Lynn's dead mother. The words - only previously known between the two women - have an immediate effect on Lynn. Man, I cried like a baby.
Even when the ending came and I thought it was all going to be cute and tidy, I was prepared to forgive. Then, just when I least expected it, a twist. Aaaah. So nice to be surprised these days and in such a clever way.
Also featured in the film is Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Gray, a grown-up ex-patient with a vendetta against Dr. Crowe. He appears in only one scene -- he is hysterically angry in his underwear and almost unrecognizable -- a credit to his acting skills. Must say, those Wahlberg boys have surprised me time and time again.
Freak that I am, I saw "The Sixth Sense" and the much-hyped "Blair Witch Project" in the same week and found this Hollywood film much more frightening for all the right reasons. Still, both prove that to strike true fear into every warm body, a gifted filmmaker doesn't bother with violence and gore - all the weaponry you need is waiting for you in the mind.
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 8/4/99
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