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George At 

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The Sixth Sense

I had forgot just how great THE SIXTH SENSE was.

Released back in 1999, it put writer/director M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN on the map with his brilliantly told mystery/ghost story that packed one of the biggest surprise endings in film history.

After 18 years, I am assuming that almost everyone knows that secret, but just in case, I wont be spoiling it for you here.

The film opens with child psychologist Dr, Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis in one of his best performances) celebrating a major award with his beloved wife Anna (Olivia Williams). They’re happy, successful and then startled when an intruder and former child patient is discovered nearly naked in their bathroom, screaming at Malcolm and reeling in emotional distress. The patient is played by Donnie Wahlberg (Blue Bloods) who is nearly unrecognizable but has great impact.

Their encounter goes horribly wrong and the film flashes forward to the next fall in Philadelphia. Malcolm is following a young man named Cole, trying to connect with the boy to address his paralyzing social issues and fear.

As the film moves on and Cole utters his famous line, “I see dead people” the film takes on an almost horror tone, with the wandering spirits of the dead often appearing as we assume Cole’s viewpoint.

Haley Joel Osment is terrific as Cole. He was a very talented young man and turns strong writing into an emotional powerhouse of a performance. He’s tender with his struggling mother Lynn (Toni Collette) and stands toe-to-toe with Willis as the two search for a way to close Cole’s window into the dead.

The final scene between Cole and his mom in the car, stopped in traffic for the accident to clear, is a classic five-minute sequence. Powered by simple, great dialogue and strong performances, it’s a wow, and the perfect set up to that shocking final revelation.

Shyamalan structures the entire film so perfectly that you never see the ending coming, making the last five minutes even more powerful. The emotions never feel false and the production team delivers on every aspect from the great Philadelphia location work to James Newton Howard’s powerful music that will scare the hell out of you in all the right ways.

Nominated for Best Picture, Osment for Best Supporting Actor, and Toni Collette for Best Supporting Actress, Best Editing and Shyamalan for Best Writer and Director, THE SIXTH SENSE was a massive hit, making nearly $300 million on its $40 million budget.

Shyamalan touches plenty of nerves for the viewer, examining eternal love in so many ways here, between families, between spouses, between siblings. Having lost our Kristin less than three years ago, those messages were a thousand times more powerful than when I first saw the film many years ago.

Scary, suspenseful, smart and emotionally powerful, THE SIXTH SENSE remains Shyamalan’s best film for me, playing perfectly even when you DO know it’s big secret.

It gets an A.

Now can any fan of this film tell me why the doorknob to Malcolm’s study is red? I can’t figure out if there is any significance to that pretty unique piece of hardware…..

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