A mindbender from M. Night.
M. Night Shyamalan's psychological thriller The Sixth Sense (1999) is a timeless classic deep in empathy for those suffering from mental illness, depression, grief, or pain. It remains perhaps M. Night's greatest film up there with Unbreakable. The Sixth Sense is tender to its characters, while shocking to its audience.
M. Night's direction has all the style of a killer suspense film with the thread work of a gripping thriller. You are constantly asking questions that all get answered. The Sixth Sense is simply one of the most satisfying films ever directed as it contains so much setup and payoff of meticulous details. Once you understand what the plot is, you can even go back and revisit The Sixth Sense to reveal all the hints that M. Night laid for you. The cinematography is so sleek and every frame is focused in on the characters and their facial reactions. The Sixth Sense is as finely honed as films get.
M. Night's script starts out as a family drama that delves into what marriages need in order for husbands and wives to be happy, but further expands into the minds of children. The Sixth Sense takes place both from the perspective of a married man, but also a child experiencing his parents' divorce and the pain that separation has caused him. M. Night is clever enough to explore further still with a twist for the ages.
James Newton Howard's creepy score is as haunting as M. Night's script and direction. Howard composes a chilling atmospheric score to accompany all the suffering and scares within The Sixth Sense. There is so much to love with how subtle Howard's music is for The Sixth Sense.
Bruce Willis is phenomenal as a child psychologist desperately trying to communicate and relate to his young patient. Willis displays a sincere sympathy for this boy that is rare in Willis' filmography. His quiet pondering and emotional distress is so apparent that it makes you wonder what M. Night told Willis to make him act so tenderly and affectionate. The Sixth Sense contains Willis' best acting alongside another M. Night masterpiece Unbreakable. Willis showed up for The Sixth Sense and portrays one of cinema's greatest characters as Malcolm Crowe.
Likewise, Toni Collette is outstanding as the depressed and uncertain, but kindly mother Lynn Sear. Collette's display of longing to be rid of her husband, acknowledgement from her mother, and affection or understanding from her son is awe inspiring. Collette feels like a real mother in The Sixth Sense. You can relate to her and sense her fears. She is just so good!
I must mention Haley Joel Osment is a revelation of empathetic and nuanced acting from a young child actor as Cole Sear. Osment's ability to portray a boy suffering and struggling features such complex emotional range that comes across the screen so deeply that you would think he had been acting for years prior to The Sixth Sense. He has such an intriguing chemistry and friendship with Willis. He clearly liked and idolized him, but played his character at a distance on purpose. Haley Joel Osment gave the performance of a lifetime in The Sixth Sense.
Additionally, I adored Olivia Williams as Anna Crowe in The Sixth Sense. Her sullen dejection is impression and heartbreaking.
Lastly, I would like to give a special commendation to Donnie Wahlberg in The Sixth Sense as a troubled former patient to Willis named Vincent Gray. The second he appears on screen, he takes your breath away with fear and staunch terror. He is hypnotizing in his brief role so much so that Wahlberg's presence is felt throughout The Sixth Sense. His is one of the best movies scenes in cinema history.
In all, The Sixth Sense perseveres as the most memorable twist in movie history, or at least, up there with the best. But more than a great twist is the surrounding thriller that keeps you on edge and gripped on suspense. M. Night completely captures you in his dreamy atmosphere and film noir style.