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Bruce and Haley's Excellent Adventure
A review of The Sixth Sense
by Robert A. Fulkerson

I'd been eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Sixth Sense based on the trailers that I had been seeing for about two months while waiting to watch other, lesser movies. For the week after it's release, I had been hearing glowing personal reviews and good press reviews of the movie. When I arrived at the theater, two former students of mine greeted me and took my ticket and gave knowing nods and smiles when I told him which movie I was going to see. "It's excellent," they both said.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Stars: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams

Rating: PG-113

Release: 08-06-1999

Time: 107 minutes

Buy Movie at I was not disappointed. This is an excellent film that far outshines its box office genre sibling, The Blair Witch Project. More a traditional ghost story than horror film, The Sixth Sense opens with child psychiatrist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) and his wife Anna (Olivia Williams, Rushmore) celebrating an award presented to him by the mayor of Philadelphia for outstanding service to the children of the city. It's an achievement that both are proud of, especially Anna because she feels that she's come second in his life for quite some time, but the sacrifices have apparently been worth it if her husband has helped so many other people and families.

Their celebration is interrupted by a former patient breaking into their home and confronting his former therapist because his sessions didn't cure him of what ailed him when he was a child. After a few tense moments, the intruder shoots Crowe in the stomach and then kills himself.

Flash-forward to the "following Fall" (as the credits tell us), and Crowe is still agonizing over the incident. However, another child with similar symptoms has landed under his guidance, and he sees a chance to redeem himself and his marriage, which has started to unravel because he's become very withdrawn with grief and guilt.

Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment, Forrest Gump) is a young boy who possesses a "sixth sense", which essentially means he can see ghosts. "I see dead people," he reveals to Crowe during a critical scene that bonds child and therapist. Of course, none of the adults or children in his life believes him, including his mother Lynn (Toni Collette, Velvet Goldmine).

As the movie continues to unfold at it's engrossing, methodical pace, we are drawn in to these people's lives and want to believe that Cole can see ghosts. We get glimpses of the possibility that he can, and we aren't pummeled over the head with whiz-bang special effects to lead us to that conclusion. For a good portion of the first half of the film, we're not sure if he truly can see the dead people or not.

While the low-budget independent movie Blair Witch accomplishes the task of suggesting the bogeyman in the dark, M. Night Shyamalan's tightly written script and agile direction prove to us that even Hollywood can produce a great ghost story.

Bruce Willis gives the performance of his career, gently underplaying Crowe's agonizing psychologist to be everything that we learn he is in the opening three minutes of the movie--an outstanding child psychiatrist. At the same time, Willis is able to let Osment's presence on screen shine through. Other adult actors would be using the child counterpart as a "Look, I can act with a child!" vehicle (Big Daddy comes to mind). Willis understands that, while the movie is about Crowe's own journey of rehabilitation, none of the events or the emotional power of the movie could take place without Osment's outstanding performance as Cole.

Osment has a majority of the dialogue in the film and is in almost every scene, and he adeptly handles the possessed child with skill. You never think that he's just a cute kid in a movie with Bruce Willis; instead, you think that there's a well-seasoned actor playing a kid who sees dead people up there on the big screen, and after the movie you appreciate his ability to make you forget that he's only 11 years old.

This is a must-see movie for anyone who enjoys a good "ghost story", or who believes that the possibility of ghosts is a real one. If they exist, what do they want from us? Shyamlan's fine story gives us one possible answer. It also allows the audience to explore the meaning of relationships between husbands and wives, children and mothers and children and adults. This is only Shyamlan's third directorial outing, and I eagerly look forward to his future films.