#230 – The Sixth Sense (1999)

With 919,342 votes, The Sixth Sense has a score of 8.1 on IMDb.

A boy who communicates with spirits seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.

A twist so well-known that it’s in the plot summary!

Possibly one of the most well-known movies thanks to its iconic twist and possibly cementing M. Night Shyamalan as the Twist Master, The Sixth Sense proved an enjoyable watch for this first-time viewer. I went in knowing the twist, of course, but it was still a thrilling movie full of neat little ‘hints’ that you only really appreciate knowing the twist – rather like other twist movies such as Shutter Island. Spoilers: the kid can see dead people. This is up there with ‘Aerith Dies’ and ‘It Was His Sled’ as far as iconic moments go, and it’s almost The Un-Twist these days.

I’ll admit I spent most of the movie enjoying all the moments that it almost shouts to you, telling you that Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis of Die Hard and Twelve Monkeys fame) is dead – such as the awkward dinner he has with his wife on their anniversary, or the fact that he never actually has a conversation with anyone other than young Cole (Haley Joel Osment of Kingdom Hearts fame). The adults in the movie don’t even look at Crowe, and it’s easy to wonder how anyone didn’t realise the reality of the story until the very end – but then we’re more conditioned to these tropes now.

One thing I really appreciate about the film is the relationship between Cole and his mother (Toni Collette of Knives Out fame) which is the most compelling part of the whole thing for me. Watching the pair struggle together is genuinely heart-breaking and Collette is fantastic at acting out the subtleties of a stressed-out mother at the end of her tether. To that end, the way Cole builds confidence up over the story and eventually is able to ‘come out’ to his mother and explain why there was such a block between him and a normal mother-son relationship ends with a very emotional scene that reduced me to heaving tears.

While mostly a character piece that revolves around the main trio, there are some moments over the movie that can thrill or even scare you. While not jump scares, there are reveals that are designed purely to shock the viewer (the hanged people at the school, the vomiting girl) and one scene is so frantic and well-acted that you cannot help but feel totally invested in their plight (specifically, Cole being locked away at the birthday party). These moments largely stop once Cole learns more about the nature of ghosts and commits to helping them instead. I think this leads to a slightly weaker second half which feels like it could have been an episode of a TV show where Cole helps out a different soul each week – though I’ll admit the whole funeral sequence was very touching.

Additionally, I felt like the whole “new boyfriend” sub-plot with Crowe’s wife/widow could have been dropped. Knowing the twist, it just feels like purely inauthentic drama that disrespects the viewer. It slows the movie down and takes time away from the gripping Cole plot. Saying that, this is as someone who does know the twist and is speaking with 22 years of hindsight.

Overall though, The Sixth Sense really lived up to its reputation. It’s like a mishmash of mystery, horror, thriller and drama and I think it works really well. Bruce Willis is always a star no matter his role and it’s really cool to see Haley Joel Osment as a tiny kid before he was Sora or that mind-reader from The Boys. The characters are extremely well-written and while the ending is a little abrupt, it will leave you feeling satisfied.

Verdict: it’s a piece of legendary cinema history – watch it, probably.


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