Review of The Sixth Sense (#89)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Uncategorized

The Sixth Sense (1999), is number 89 on the list and I’d already seen this ages ago, but only once all the way through. I was very excited to have an excuse to watch it again, so we dusted off the copy from our DVD library last night and enjoyed it again.

When I saw this the first time, I had already seen Unbreakable and was blown away by M. Night’s vision and skill. Sadly, Sixth Sense had already been spoiled for me by the time I saw it on videotape. (Or DVD. Whatevs.) Real bummer, as I would’ve LOVED to have been surprised, but I dearly love it just the same.

In that vein, I refuse to spoil it for anyone and will not discuss what the big twist of the movie is, but I will beg you to see it if you haven’t already. As is typical by now, M. Night has multiple stories going on at once, each one compelling and believable: a haunted boy (literally) struggling to find a way out of a truly terrifying situation with the help of a doctor (Psychologist? Psychiatrist?); a loving couple with an untenable distance in their clearly painful marriage; and a beautifully depicted maternal love as the boy’s mother is confused and powerless, but still seeks out what is terrorizing her young son with an animalistic protectiveness that is both compelling and relatable.

It is supremely effed up what this kid sees in his day to day life, and it is heartbreaking what Cole is going through with his mother, trying to get her to understand and believe him without scaring her into thinking he’s insane. And seeing what his mother is going through trying to help him is excruciating for this mother. As I find true with all his films, except for The Village which I liked but did not LOVE, he tells a story that breaks my heart and then somewhat heals it. I know the director takes a lot of crap, but I find his movies to be compelling and well worth the time, every time.

The casting is magnificent in this film. Bruce Willis portrays the shrink Malcolm, who is trying to help Haley Joel Osment’s young and achingly fragile Cole through what he first believes to be psychological response to his father leaving the family. Toni Collette plays Cole’s mother, and this may have been the first movie I saw her in, because I had no recollection she was in it. Olivia Williams, who I had to go to IMDB to chase away the “I’ve seen her before” tickle (Mrs. Darling from Peter Pan and Adelle from Dollhouse), played Malcolm’s wife with a confused, loving and distant vibe. These four characters are the focus of the story, but I have to admit to running back to the DVD when I saw Donnie Wahlberg listed with the cast. I didn’t recognize him as Vincent at all. He was unrecognizable, amazing and believably insane in his portrayal of this broken young man. What a shame that only his brother gets accolades because this is truly a talented actor. I had no clue just how talented until now, but I hope he sees better roles than what show up on his current IMDB page.

Each of these actors, along with the supporting cast, give rich and soulful performances. It is not surprising that Osment’s is the most compelling portrayal, as he’s just so very young. It seems impossible that he would be able to carry a role so permeated with pain and terror at such a young age.

My two favorite lines from the movie:
“I never told you, but you sound a little like Dr. Seuss when you’re drunk.” Malcolm’s wife to Malcolm.
“I didn’t know you were funny.” Cole, after Malcolm performs a pathetic magic trick.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) is next on the list, and has already arrived. I’ve not seen it, and know nothing other than it stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. I love seeing movies with no preconceived notions about it, it’s freeing in a way, don’t you think?

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