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THE SIXTH SENSE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams
Director:  M. Night Shyamalan
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Hollywood Pictures
Features:  See Review
Length:  107 Minutes
Release Date:  September 30, 2008

"I see dead people."

Film ***1/2

I'm guessing from the box office numbers that there aren't many people left who haven't seen The Sixth Sense for the first time, but if you happen to be one of them…I envy you.  I enjoy repeat viewings of the film, but this is one I desperately wish I could completely erase from my mind just to re-experience the pleasure of seeing it for the first time.

One thing's for sure:  to watch this movie was to watch three rising stars who were bound to shine in the movie business for some time to come—and all three were recognized with Oscar nominations for their work.  Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan was a brilliant young artist, whose meticulous attention to detail and careful control over his vision can be admired upon the first viewing, but not fully appreciated until later ones.  It's sad that his reputation seems to be sliding further and further away with each subsequent film, but one can't help but hold out hope for a return to glory for him.

Toni Collette turned in an incredible supporting performance…supporting in the best sense of the word.  She helped provide the movie with some of its strongest and most penetrating emotion.

But nothing will prepare you for seeing young Haley Joel Osment for the first time.  An incredible weight was on his shoulders in this film, and failure to carry it would have been disastrous.  Truth be told, what was asked of him was almost too much to ask of any child actor, but he not only met the challenge, he rose above and exploded through it.  This was a meaty role, one that required a lot more of its portrayer than charm and cuteness.  I'd seriously wager that the only people who thought his Oscar nomination was a token one for a popular new kid are the ones who haven't seen The Sixth Sense.

But I'd be wrong not to mention Bruce Willis' work here, which deserves praise for the amount of restraint he showed.  He's used to carrying movies, but here, it was a requirement that the film almost carry him.  He may be the big name star, but his job as an actor was mostly to support young Osment's scenes, and to lend an on screen identity for the audience's thoughts and emotions.  Not many mega-stars would have the capacity NOT to try and dominate their scenes:  Willis proved a formidable actor up to that challenge.

He plays Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a renowned child psychiatrist, who learns harshly at the beginning of the film that he had failed one of his kids in a big way.  The idea of that failure seems to haunt him throughout the picture, and leads him to taking up a very similar case in young Cole Sear (Osment).  It's no coincidence, I'm sure, that his last name is a homonym of  “seer”.

Cole is a good kid, obviously bright, but unusually nervous for such a young boy.  He has a secret that he doesn't want known, and through it all, he tries as much as possible to live and act like a normal child.  But I'm sure you already know he's not normal…he has the sixth sense.  He “sees dead people”.

Malcolm, of course, can't quite believe him at first, but he obviously feels that he has to somehow try to break through and help Cole to redeem himself from his past mistakes, even though his somewhat obsessive work on the case is making him more and more distant from his wife (Williams).

That's as much as I want to say out of respect for those who haven't seen the movie.  There are surprises in store…incredible, jaw dropping, inspired surprises that will guarantee this is a picture you won't ever forget.

Above all, this is an intelligently crafted thriller, one that fully expects and challenges the viewers to go back a second time and watch it under closer scrutiny.  To do so is a rewarding and satisfying experience.  This is not a horror film that relies on cheap scares or effects…in fact, the picture actually contains no special effects shots at all.  Shyamalan weaves his tapestry strictly from his camerawork, his taut script, and a bevy of convincing, incredible performances. 

But even more than the scares and suspense, this is a film with a deeply emotion center.  We care about these characters, and look upon them as much more than pawns in some horror film.  We feel how these events are really affecting their lives.  A scene near the end between Cole and his mother (Collette) together in a car is, I think, one of the year's most beautifully touching and genuine.

Looking back, I feel a little sad that the picture didn't walk away with a single Oscar it was nominated for (I guess it'll just have to console itself with those box office numbers).  Yet one thing is certain:  Hollywood royalty has not seen the last of Mr. Osment, Ms. Collette, nor Mr. Shyamalan.

Video ***1/2

This is a solid high definition transfer from Disney...it has more sharpness and clarity in darker scenes than their initial DVD release, with only a touch of murkiness and softness here and there.  Colors come through with more integrity, and images are crisper and more detailed than before...nice!

Audio ***

The uncompressed audio track is a nice bonus, though The Sixth Sense doesn't make as much use of dynamic range as many horror films.  There are still nice ambient effects throughout to employ the rear channels and a few sparing uses of the subwoofer.  James Newton Howard's score sounds very nice, and dialogue is always clean and clear.

Features ***

The disc contains three trailers, some short interview segments involving the cast and crew, publicity files, some storyboard comparisons, deleted scenes (including an altered ending), and four featurettes.

Summary:

The Sixth Sense is terrific filmmaking:  entertaining, thoughtful, and meticulously crafted.  It's the kind of movie that's perfect for owning on Blu-ray:  you'll love it the first time, and then you won't be able to wait to spin it again for a closer look.

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