The Sixth Sense - rated - TEPID

A Poor-Man's Shining

This film was much hyped on release. I was too busy over Christmas & New Year to get to see it, and so by the time I went to see it at Sydney's Reading Theatre (a second-run cinema) the hype was over, and I'd forgotten what I'd read about it. Actually, I did knew enough about the film to avoid reading anything about it. I'd heard that there was some crucial plot-point which, if disclosed, could ruin the film for me. So, luckily, I saw this film without preconceptions, other than one crucial one - I understood that it was a "terrific" film.

Imagine my disappointment when, half-way through the film, I began to realise that this was just a high-class shocker. I have to admit that I hate watching gory films with dead bodies or people who suddenly jump out at you. So I had to spend a lot of time with my eyes closed, which I resent whn I watch a film. Luckily the music telegraphed every scary scene for me, with loud, Jaws-like music signalling any shocks in advance. And heavy-handed hints dropped along the way also helped. Every time the dog ran away or the temperature dropped I knew to brace myself.

Bruce Willis puts in a creditable and sensitive performance as a child psychologist. The child he psychologises is played by Haley Joel Osment. His name in the film is - wait for it - Cole Sear! Geddit? Young Haley Joel is nomiated for an Oscar for this role, and if he wins it will only serve to confirm my view that the Oscars usually only indicate which film has been hyped the most. If acting consists of looking worried and whispering a lot, then Haley's the best there is. But on the evidence of his performance in this film, he's a one-note actor. Still, he does carry a heavy burden in the film 0 and does so professionallly, and convincingly. And he certainly looks cute enough.

Much better is Toni Colette as Cole's mother, Lynn Sear. She's a working-class single mother who loves her child and it is one of the most honest portrayals of that sort of character I can remember. She's not glamorous, she's not heroic, she's not "gritty". She's just true - and that's great acting.

The Sixth Sense was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. He's made 2 films before, but as far as I know they didn't get a release in Australia. In The Sixth Sense he appears in a cameo role as a doctor who suspects Lynn Sear of child-abuse. How ironic! If anyone is guilty of child-abuse it is M. Night Shyamalan. Fancy making a film where a child is tortured by dead people. And the resolution of the film does not really alleviate this position. What a bleak life this kid faces. I found it a most depressing prospect.

I think this film is superfically appealing, but it is not a film which stays with you. In fact, it only goes to show how brilliant a film Kubrick's The Shining is. So much more mysterious and, strangely, all the more believable for that.