August 9, 1999 -- Most movie ghost stories aren't effective, but "The Sixth Sense" is an exception. There's the usual blood and gore. There's the usual pain, loss and depression, but there's also humanity and healing.
Bruce Willis stars as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist who is trying to help a young boy, Cole Sear (very effectively played by Haley Joel Osment) overcome his fears. Unknown to Crowe is the fact that Sear's anxieties have a very unusual cause: he can see dead people and actually communicate with them.
Crowe himself, is struggling with a devastating experience which resulted from his mis diagnosis of an earlier patient. He sees Sears' case as similar to the earlier one and he hopes to redeem himself.
The screenplay, by M. Night Shyamalan (who also directs the film), is very deviously constructed, so the twist at the end comes as quite a surprise. Willis gives a very quiet and assured performance, far different than his usual action hero stuff. He is very convincing as a doctor torn by self doubts and who seems withdrawn from his wife and the rest of the world.
Willis and the young Haley Joel Osment work very well together. Willis showed a similar effective working relationship with another good young actor named Miko Hughes in "Mercury Rising." There are also good supporting performances from Olivia Williams ("Rushmore") as Crowe's wife, Anna, and Toni Collette as Sear's mother, Lynn.
While the movie isn't particularly believable, it is interesting and it compelling because of the relationship between the boy and the doctor and the way they attack their problems. The story doesn't cheat by resorting to action or scare clichés. It sticks right to the main conflict and it keeps it in human terms. This film rates a B.
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