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By STEPHEN HOLDEN
nd this year's "Touched by an Angel" award for gaggingly mawkish
supernatural kitsch goes to
Bruce Willis' newest film, "The Sixth
Sense." The star, who plays Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a gifted child
psychologist in Philadelphia, also earns the Robin Williams-manque
award for ineffable, twinkling,
half-smiling misty-eyed empathy with
But since Willis has only one
basic facial expression in all his films, it isn't
his icky smirk that telegraphs the doctor's extra-special
wears exactly the same smirk when he's about to shoot someone in the
No, it is the movie's treacly soundtrack by James Newton Howard, the
maestro du jour for smearing on goo whenever it's time to
clench back tears.
first hour, "The Sixth Sense," which was written and directed by M.
Night Shyamalan, half-heartedly
poses as a horror film about to erupt
into gore. Its opening scene finds the doctor and his wife, Anna (Olivia
Williams), tipsily celebrating his award from the city of Philadelphia for
As the Crowes, flushed from imbibing a $100 bottle of wine, are about
to tumble into
bed, they discover an intruder in their bathroom. The
uninvited guest turns out to be Vincent Gray (Donnie
former child patient of the doctor's, now grown up and in full maniacal
"You failed me!" he screams and pulls out a gun and shoots the doctor in
stomach before turning the weapon on himself.
We jump ahead several months. The doctor has apparently
from his wounds, but his spirit is broken. Still haunted by his "failure," he
takes on a new patient, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a waifish
9-year-old boy who lives with his divorced
mother, Lynn (Toni Collette),
and whose severe psychological problems are uncannily reminiscent of
the young Vincent Gray's.
This time, the doctor vows to himself, he won't fail his patient. And after
much game-playing and hanging out with Cole (the doctor seems to have
nothing better to do all
day than follow Cole around, smirking
empathetically), the boy reveals his secret. He claims he can see the
And every so often, the movie gives us creepy little glimpses of the corpse-strewn world as it
through Cole's tormented vision. At first, the doctor doesn't believe the boy. But then, well, let's not take
story any further lest its colossally sentimental payoff be compromised.Because it unfolds like a garish hybrid
of "Simon Birch" and "What Dreams May Come," with some horror-movie touches thrown in to keep us from
nodding off, "The Sixth Sense" appears to have been concocted at exactly the moment Hollywood was betting on supernatural
schmaltz. For Willis, the movie continues the unpromising track he took with "Mercury Rising," in which his character
goes through hell to save the life
of an autistic child. For Shyamalan, "The Sixth Sense" is a slight improvement
over last year's
"Wide Awake." But that isn't saying much. That insufferably coy drama of another wee Philadelphian
searching for proof of God's existence barely registered at the box office. The Willis name should insure that "The Sixth
Sense" stays around a little bit longer.
'THE SIXTH SENSE' is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly
cautioned). It includes images of dead bodies and a fantasy of a woman's suicide.
'THE SIXTH SENSE'
and directed by M. Night Shyamalan; director of photography,
Tak Fujimoto; edited by Andrew Mondshein; music by James
Howard; production designer, Larry Fulton; produced by Frank
Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Barry Mendel;
released by Hollywood
Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment. Running time: 107 minutes.
WITH: Bruce Willis (Malcolm
Crowe), Haley Joel Osment (Cole Sear),Toni Collette (Lynn Sear), Olivia Williams (Anna Crowe), Trevor Morgan (Tommy Tammisimo)
and Donnie Wahlberg (Vincent Gray).
THE SIXTH SENSE
Malcolm Crowe: Bruce Willis
Cole Sear: Haley Joel Osment
Lynn Sear: Toni Collette
Anna Crowe: Olivia Williams
Tommy Tammisimo: Trevor: Morgan
Vincent Gray: Donnie Wahlberg
Written and directed by N. Night Shyamalan. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated
PG-13 (for intense thematic
material and violent images).
BY ROGER EBERT
"The Sixth Sense"
isn't a thriller in the modern sense, but more of a ghost story of the
sort that flourished years ago,
when ordinary people glimpsed hidden dimensions. It
has long been believed that children are better than
adults at seeing ghosts; the
barriers of skepticism and disbelief are not yet in place. In this film,
a small boy
solemnly tells his psychologist, "I see dead people. They want me to do things for
them." He seems to be correct.
The psychologist is Malcolm Crowe (Bruce
Willis), who is shot one night in his home
by an intruder, a man who had been his patient years earlier
and believes he was
wrongly treated. The man then turns the gun on himself. "The next fall,"
subtitles tell us, we see Crowe mended in body but perhaps not in spirit, as he takes
on a new case, a boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) who exhibits some of
the same problems as the
patient who shot at him. Maybe this time he can get it right.
The film shows us things adults
do not see. When Cole's mother (Toni Collette)
leaves the kitchen for just a second and comes back in
the room, all of the doors and
drawers are open. At school, he tells his teacher "they used to hang
When the teacher wonders how Cole could possibly know things like that, he
helpfully tells him, "when you were a boy they called you Stuttering Stanley."
Crowe's task to reach this boy and heal him, if healing is indeed what he needs.
Perhaps he is calling
for help; he knows the Latin for "from out of the depths I cry
into you, oh Lord!" Crowe doesn't
necessarily believe the boy's stories, but Crowe
himself is suffering, in part because his wife, once
so close, now seems to be drifting
into an affair and doesn't seem to hear him when he talks to her.
The boy tells him,
"talk to her when she's asleep. That's when she'll hear you."
Using an "as if" approach to therapy, Crowe asks Cole, "What do you think the
are trying to tell you?" This is an excellent question, seldom asked in
ghost stories, where the
heroes are usually so egocentric they think the ghosts have
gone to all the trouble of appearing simply
so they can see them. Cole has some
ideas. Crowe wonders whether the ideas aren't sound even if there
Bruce Willis often finds himself in fantasies and science
fiction films. Perhaps he fits
easily into them because he is so down to earth. He rarely seems ridiculous,
when everything else in the screen is absurd (see "Armageddon"), because he never
over-reaches; he usually plays his characters flat and matter of fact. Here there is a
poignancy in his
bewilderment. The film opens with the mayor presenting him with a
citation, and that moment precisely
marks the beginning of his professional decline.
He goes down with a sort of doomed dignity.
Haley Joel Osment, his young co-star, is a very good actor in a film where his
possibly has more lines than anyone else. He's in most of the scenes, and
he has to act in them--this
isn't a role for a cute kid who can stand there and look
solemn in reaction shots. There are fairly involved
dialogue passages between Willis
and Osment that require good timing, reactions and the ability to listen.
more than equal to them. And although the tendency is to notice how good he is, not
every adult actor can play heavy dramatic scenes with a kid and not seem to
condescend (or, even worse,
to be subtly coaching and leading him). Willis can.
Those scenes give the movie its weight and make it
as convincing as, under the
circumstances, it can possibly be.
I have to
admit I was blind-sided by the ending. The solution to many of the film's
puzzlements is right there
in plain view, and the movie hasn't cheated, but the very
boldness of the storytelling carried me right
past the crucial hints and right through to
the end of the film, where everything takes on an intriguing
new dimension. The film
was written and directed by N. Night Shyamalan, whose previous film, "Wide
Awake," was also about a little boy with a supernatural touch; he mourned his dead
and demanded an explanation from God. I didn't think that one worked.
"The Sixth Sense" has a kind of calm,
sneaky self-confidence that allows it to take us
down a strange path, intriguingly.
Copyright © Chicago
# Movie: SIXTH
SENSE, THE (1999) #
# Reviewer: John Carroll
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We have been very blessed this summer. It all started with Star Wars
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Despite
what you thought of the film, it
was still a motion picture experience we will never forget. Then, we saw
Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which turned out to be better then
the original. Then, we saw the end of Stanley Kubrick's
great career. And
in recent weeks, we have seen the Indie sensation, The Blair Witch Project
and also the sharp
comedy, Bowfinger. And last, but certainly not least,
The Sixth Sense. It is very comparable to The Blair Witch Project
fact that they both keep you interested until the end, and then shock you
with very haunting and chilling
endings. They are both great films and
very worthy of their four star ratings, but I would have to give a slight
edge to The Blair Witch Project, only due to the fact that Witch's
characters are a little stronger and The Sixth Sense
goes slightly too
long, but is still great, nonetheless.
The premise is that Bruce Willis is a child psychologist
The film starts with Malcolme Crowe (Bruce Willis) winning an award for
his work. Crowe and
his wife go to celebrate, but they are interrupted by
an old patient who broke into their home, played by Donnie Wahlberg.
shoots Crowe and the film moves on to next Fall. Crowe takes a new
patient, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment),
who displays the same simptoms of
Vincent Gray (Wahlberg). Crowe wants to help Sear, to make up for his
Bruce Willis is excellent in this film. He is the prototypical Hollywood
actor. He can do action,
as shown in the Die Hard trilogy. And he can also
do serious acting, and he displays that trait in The Sixth Sense.
completely believable, which is needed in this sort of film. The premise
not exactly something you hear
about every day, so each actor had to have
a sense of believability. And Willis does.
to Haley Joel Osment, Willis is trash. Osment gives a
great performance as Cole Sear. He is able to display such great
of emotional depth despite his young age. He gives a better performance
than I have seen from other
veteran actors. I had heard the hype after the
release of The Sixth Sense that Osment deserved an Oscar nomination.
not believe it...Until now, that is. He got such a demanding role, and is
able to outshine everyone else
in the film with a terrific performance.
And his career can only go up from here. Some of you may remember him as
Forrest Gump Jr. from Forrest Gump.
The rest of the cast is solid and basically just feed off the performances
of Osment and Willis. The reason this film is so good is that it does not
burden you with too many subplots.
The main plot is, of course, trying to
solve the mystery of what is bothering Cole. The only other subplots are
the relationship between Malcome and his wife, and the relationship
between Cole and his mother. It is simple, straightforward,
so complex and interesting.
Overall, The Sixth Sense is this summer's must-see. Just like
Witch Project it is cheap and interesting. Also like The Blair Witch
Project it is not as scary as
you may think, but character interaction and
depth make up for it in both cases. Expect to see Haley Joel Osment and
maybe even Bruce Willis at the Oscars. The only thing holding those two
men (and children) from making acceptance
speeches is their summer
release. But, their performances are so strong the voting committee should
thinking about them come Oscar Season. And when you start talking
Oscars, you know you have just seen a good film.
Four Stars Out of Four Stars
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The Sixth Sense
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams,
Haley Joel Osment
Running time: 106 minutes
My rating (5 star scale): *****
If you are looking for
a movie that can scare you without
spending millions on fx, without the characters constantly
screaming and yelling,
without everyone in the film acting
like an idiot, without a constantly shaking hand held camera,
then this is the
movie for you. The Sixth Sense is easily the
scariest movie of the season. A movie where something as
a breath terrifies you. This movie delivers what
The Blair Witch Project merely promises.
Willis is therapist
Malcolm Crowe who specializes in deeply
disturbed children. He's happily married and highly
respected. But there
is a failure in Crowe's past that comes
back to haunt him. And his future becomes an effort to
make up for that
failure. This brings him into contact with
Cole Sear (Osment) a child who believes he can see ghosts.
visions have led to antisocial behavior and
have caused Cole a lot of trouble. He has no friends at
school and even
the teachers and the other parents find him
difficult to accept. His parents have separated and while
he is close
to his mother, he cannot bring himself to tell
her what he sees. And she cannot understand what his
Malcolm has to determine whether Cole is crazy, cursed, or
blessed and help him deal with whichever one of those
suffers from. He also has to deal with problems in his own
life as he realizes his marriage is dissolving and
is growing increasingly distant from him.
This is a truly scary film. And it includes the best
in Willis' career. I don't think he ever raises
his voice in this film. I know he has no action scenes. Most
the time he sits or stands quietly. He speaks softly.
And he makes us care about his character and what he is
The chemistry between Willis and Osment, who are
together in better than half the scenes, is terrific. Osment
a great performance as a real child (not one of the
sickeningly cute kids of sitcoms nor one of the deranged
of film). He's a normal kid stuck in an abnormal
situation. Willis becomes the only one he can really talk to.
scenes between the two play so naturally, you'd think you
were just eavesdropping on a real conversation between a
and a disturbed child.
I don't want to reveal any of the surprises in this film. I
will say the movie plays
fair with its audience. And that
even if you guess any of the film's twists, that won't
diminish your pleasure
in the film. I did, and I still loved
I know a film is funny when it makes me laugh. I know a film
scary when I can't sleep because of the frightening images
it has planted in my mind. I saw The Sixth Sense on Monday.
Today is Saturday. I'm still having trouble getting to sleep.
If you like good films, if you like scary films, if
good acting, see this movie.
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