The Sixth Sense

on August 06, 1999 by Christine James
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   Malcolm Crowe ("Armageddon's" Bruce Willis), a kind-hearted and well-respected child psychologist, begins to doubt himself after being forced to witness the suicide of a deeply troubled former patient, Vincent ("Ransom's" Donnie Wahlberg), whom he'd misdiagnosed years earlier. When a new patient, eight-year-old Cole ("Forrest Gump's" Haley Joel Osment), begins exhibiting the same behaviors as Vincent, Crowe comes to view the case as his chance to redeem himself. What Crowe doesn't know is that Cole's troubles aren't psychological, but parapsychological-he can see ghosts, and is constantly plagued by disturbing reenactments of their demises. Already pegged as a "freak" by his classmates for his strange behavior, Cole is determined to keep his horrifying ability a secret, especially from his loving but worried mother ("Velvet Goldmine's" Toni Collette), as he feels she's the one person who still thinks he's "normal." With a wisdom and skepticism beyond his years, Cole seriously doubts that Crowe can help, but the doctor refuses to give up-as much for himself as for the child. The two soon develop a bond of trust; however, when Cole finally confides his secret, Crowe fears the boy is severely delusional.
   Audiences hoping for a bone-chilling horror-thriller will be disappointed by the fact that "The Sixth Sense" is more a drama with paranormal elements than a fright flick; the film seems to purposely avoid playing up the otherworldly aspects in an attempt to be a more sophisticated genre entry. Given that the protagonist sees ghosts "all the time," writer/director M. Night Shyamalan ("Wide Awake") could have taken the opportunity to jam-pack the film with fantastical figures from beyond the grave, each trying to recruit Cole's help in unresolved matters spanning the centuries. But viewers are privy to a scant few of his visions, and none are extremely eerie. However, the story manages to keep one's interest engaged all the way through to the exhilaratingly unexpected ending, which effectively breathes new life into all the previous proceedings. Starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette and Olivia Williams. Directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan. Produced by Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Barry Mendel. A Buena Vista release. Drama/Thriller. Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material and violent images. Running time: 107 min
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