Review: “The Sixth Sense”

The second most successful film of the year after the “Star Wars” prequel is this drama thriller. Why is it such a runaway hit? Probably because its the complete opposite of what the disappointing “The Phantom Menace” was – a mega-budget, mega-hyped, visual effects fest with shallow characters.

“The Sixth Sense” on the other hand is low key, had next to no early buzz, has almost no visual effects and relies solely on its deep and complex characters. But is it a good film is the question. Very Good? Yes. Great? Well for most people sure (though not for me). Like “Arlington Road”, this is a rather slow paced drama which relies heavily on a big twist.

Many people I’ve talked to were aware there was a twist but only about 20% figured it out by the time it happened – the rest were in complete shock. Those who were in complete shock tended to only remember the twist – and consequently loved the film. Those who figured it out earlier on the other hand tended to look at the movie as a whole, and while liking it they didn’t love it like the others. I was one of the later, figuring out the twist about 40 minutes into it.

The performances are solid with an outstanding debut from Haley Joel Osment who plays the only kid I can recall in recent cinema history that’s been as engaging as the adults, mainly due to the very cynical side of his character. Toni Collette not only provides a great supporting performance as the boy’s single mother, but also displays a flawless American accent which never slips for even a moment to reveal the Australian underneath. Bruce Willis is good but the role isn’t particular impressive (just lots of standing around looking glum).

Whereas “Blair Witch” was a gripping drama, the scare factor was non-existent till the last ten minutes. “The Sixth Sense” is more effective. While there’s only one or two scares of the ‘jump’ variety, the rest of them are more of the unsettling kind which induce a cold chill down your back rather than a scream from your mouth. The best example in this is a scene at the top of a stairwell at a party where the kid can hear someone behind a trapdoor – this sequence is truly unnerving and what happens next, well you can’t take your eyes off the screen.

The superb skills of Director M. Night Shyamalan really shine in these scenes. On the downside the film’s main problem is the pace. It drags in parts, especially in the first half – a fact that could turn off under 25’s. Also because of its very nature, its the kind of movie which won’t have as much an impact the second time around. Still, this is an effective and very well-made movie which isn’t really a suspense thriller, but rather a slightly disturbing and darn creepy drama that you’ll remember for quite some time.