I recently posted about colour in The Sixth Sense, but this is my actual review of the film. Enjoy 🙂
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Lots of people hate on M. Night Shyamalan. Points of attack include: “what has he done since Signs that’s good?”, “he uses too many plot twists”, “his bad outweighs the good”. All these criticisms are fair, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I feel, sometimes, like I’m the only person who thought The Village was good, and who enjoyed The Happening on the grounds that it is hilarious. To be fair, I haven’t seen The Last Airbender, and I don’t think I’m ever going to (I trust people on that one). It’s a shame, though, that his commercial failures have overshadowed his moments of genius. The Sixth Sense being one of them. Shyamalan has been caricatured as a self absorbed failure, and this image taints his work. Please, let’s forget for a moment that Shyamalan is annoying, and focus on the brilliance that is this film.
From beginning to end, The Sixth Sense is beautiful to watch. Chilling, mysterious, and emotive; visually, it ticks all the boxes of a ghost story, and is successfully affecting. Interestingly, Tak Fujimoto was the director of photography, who also did the cinematography for Silence of the Lambs, one of my favourite thrillers. Shots right from the beginning, such as Anna being seen through the slats of the wine rack in the cellar, suggest that Malcolm will struggle to reach her both physically and emotionally. Shadows play a large part, as well as shots through windows and doors. Ghostly reflections blur and distort characters’ views, adding to the uncertainty and confusion that characterises both Malcolm and Cole, and subtly suggesting the intrusion of another world, running parallel to the world we think we see and know.
The script is careful and intelligent. Anna’s line to Malcolm of “I never told you, but you sound a little like Dr. Seuss when you’re drunk” is a nod towards the nature of Malcolm’s job (working with children), but is also suggestive of riddle and word play, which reflects the need for Malcolm to work differently to how he usually would, and to see the world in a less adult way. He needs to think outside the box, and engage with his imagination (he is the one who suggests that Cole helps the spirits he sees).
Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment are amazing, my mind is constantly blown by the young Osment’s uncanny ability to convey such a troubled nature so easily. And Toni Collette is brilliant as a mother who wants so desperately to help but doesn’t know how to connect to her own child. I also feel that Donnie Wahlberg deserves a mention. I’m always surprised to see him as Vincent Grey towards the beginning, and the emotion that he conveys is harrowing to say the least.
The film is rich in symbolism, and colour plays a large part in signifying spirits invading the real world. This is what makes The Sixth Sense so captivating. Watching the film for the first time, you don’t expect the ending, and so the shock of it tends to overshadow the subtlety of the beginning. It is only once you have re-watched the film, that you begin to notice little suggestions of what is to come. A success from start to end, this is at once an exercise in potent suspense, and a carefully crafted tale of child psychology.
FINAL VERDICT: ★★★★1/2