Review: The Sixth Sense (Don HARLOW)

Enkomputiligis Don HARLOW

The Sixth Sense

Movie by M. Night SHYAMALAN

reviewed by Don HARLOW

   The Internet Movie Database classifies this film as "Thriller / Action / Horror". Don't let that frighten you off. It isn't. Thrills, in the traditional sense, are few and far between; after the first three or four minutes, there's almost no intense action; and this is probably, since The Wicker Man, the least likely such movie to be classified as a "horror" film. I'd classify it, more correctly I believe, as a tear-jerker.

   Psychotherapist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis, playing a role not unlike that he played in Mercury Rising) and his wife Anna (Olivia Williams) are having a quiet celebration of his recognized success as a savior of the mentally ill when they discover, in their bathroom, a former patient, who, upset with the fact that Crowe apparently failed to correctly diagnose his problem, puts a bullet in Crowe and then blows himself away with a bullet through his own skull. Crowe, distraught because of his failure to help the patient Grey, sets out to help Grey's son, Cole Sear (Haley Joe Osment), who apparently has the same psychological problem. Gradually, he befriends the boy and learns his secret -- which, after some period of doubt, he comes to believe, largely because of evidence on an old psychotherapy session audiotape -- that Cole, like his father, can see and hear "dead people," ghosts of those who have, apparently, left things in the world undone and wander the streets of our cities, thinking they are still alive, trying to finish up those last incomplete jobs. And so Crowe realizes that, rather than "curing" Cole of his problem, he simply has to help him come to terms with it.

   An interesting subplot is the deterioration of Crowe's relations with his wife, who hardly speaks to him anymore and seems to be falling into some kind of relationship with a male co-worker at her office. It seems appropriate that, even as Crowe helps Cole adjust to his curse -- or perhaps it is a blessing, if not to him, then to others around him -- Cole helps Crowe adjust to his situation with Anna, in such a way that both plots come together quite nicely at the end.

   This movie came to me as one of the really nice surprises of this summer -- though, after Willis's role in Mercury Rising, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. See it if you can. And if you want to take the kids, your major problem will probably be not that they find it frightening, but that they find it a bit slow for their tastes...