The Sixth Sense
***.4 GM
Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Olivia Williams, Toni Collette

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I was fully prepared to have to write this by scolding Bruce Willis for poor script choices. I've been a big fan of Bruce Willis since "Moonlighting" and, seeing as how "Die Hard" was the first action movie I ever saw, I felt he helped set the standard that no action flick has really lived up to since. I loved "Hudson Hawk" and "The Last Boy Scout." I liked "Sunset" and "In Country." I loved the thought of Bruce as guardian angel in "North," and I was always glad to see him take roles where he actually had to act, as in "12 Monkeys" and "Nobody's Fool," as opposed to relatively generic action flicks like "Striking Distance." Even with drastic misfires like "The Color Of Night," he still carries with him an immense likability, and one of the reasons I liked "Armageddon" is because, corny as it sounds, it made me think about Bruce Willis ACTUALLY dying, and it managed to choke me up a bit. I can't help it. I love the guy, and I'll check out any movie he makes.

However, I didn't quite buy him in "The Siege." I still haven't managed to see "The Jackal" because I know Richard Gere wins in the end. I was afraid "The Sixth Sense" was going to be another forgettable film like "Mercury Rising." I was really getting a bit disappointed in Bruce. I KNOW he can act, I've seen him do it. I was hoping he'd start picking some really good scripts soon. The way this film started out, I wasn't sure he'd succeeded yet.

Now, perhaps I'm very dumb, but I didn't see the twist coming at all. If I was the type that actually took comfort in sharing the opinions of the masses, I'd be a bit more secure with the fact that most everyone else coming out of the theater didn't, either. Until the twist, the film played like a slightly creepy, occasionally interesting but ultimately somewhat-less-than-impressive tale of a young boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment), who somehow happens to be able to communicate with ghosts, and the troubled child psychologist named Malcolm (Bruce) who tries to help him.

Thankfully, though, this film didn't go the way of "The Haunting" in trying to be scary with stupid cheap things jumping out at the screen. It wasn't even really TRYING to be that scary. It's more the story of the boy dealing with these visions. Osment is very good in this role - he seems a little too grown-up, but he is always believably terrified and apprehensive about everything - and Toni Collette is also good as his frustrated but loving mother. The creepy stuff is sort of a side effect, a little something extra that comes with the telling of the story.

The film is very slowly paced, and the only problem with that is the fact that the previews all tell us that the kid 'sees dead people.' But in the film, the revelation doesn't come until about halfway through it. But that disappointment will fade with time, and what's left will be a very quiet movie that works.

There was one big problem I noticed (and I'll have to see it again before I can see if there were others, since the twist gave me stuff to look for that I wouldn't have any reason to notice before). Apparently, if you record silence and turn the volume up to 10 on the playback, you can hear ghosts. There are possible explanations for this, but none seem to cover all the bases well.

Another startling thing - Donnie Wahlberg of the New Kids on The Block was in this film. Last time I remembmer seeing him in a film, he was that chubby kidnapper in "Ransom." This time, he's a scrawny, freaked out, blubbering, terrified guy, and I did not even recognize him until a few moments ago. As much as I hate to admit it, the kid might actually have some talent.

This is a good sign for Bruce. Nothing blew up in this movie at all. I don't even really remember much in the way of jarring noises, save a gunshot and one particular classroom freakout scene. It's a very subdued, dark film, and there's nothing like a good unexpected twist to bolster one's opinion of a movie.

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