We have been manipulated with great care.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

For the third consecutive week, The Sixth Sense ranked No.1 at the box office. The movie that rode into the summer on low expectations and little hype has become the sleeper hit of the summer. Known for a while as "the Bruce Willis horror flick," the film seemed destined to draw the sizeable but limited audience that loves to be scared. Instead, it broke into the mainstream. What happened? Word of mouth.

In the first place, the film does not belong to Bruce Willis, though he does a creditable job in the role of a child psychologist. That honor goes instead to Haley Joel Osment, who plays a boy haunted by hallucinations of dead people. Startlingly good as the afflicted innocent, the young boy manages to convey, in a truly unsettling way, his own tortured inner world. And then there's the matter of the horror film genre. This is a finely crafted movie with only a few cheap thrills that should have been left out. It is genuinely the thinking man's horror film.

What earns the movie its success is the way it lingers in your mind. The now heralded surprise twist at the end is not contrived, but a perfectly logical culmination of the interaction of the various threads that have been put before us. The best part is that we didn't recognize the process. We have been manipulated with great care. You may well be half way home before you begin to fully appreciate the cunning of writer-director M. Night Shyamalan.

The entire film, which moves rather slowly, is the story of the trust that builds between Malcolm (Bruce Willis) and Cole (Haley Joel Osment). Cole's loving mother, Lynn (Toni Collette), heartbroken over his troubled soul, can't help him. At one point she sails him across a grocery store parking lot in a grocery cart. For one sublime, carefree moment-his arms thrown skyward-the little boy knows joy. Cole's beatific smile reminds us of what he lives with every other moment.

Bruce Willis gives a good, restrained performance, but is hampered, as he is in most roles, by his unexpressive voice. Toni Collette is terrific as the mom who tries desperately to fathom her son's demons. And young Mr. Osment is simply astonishing.

Not content to have written an absorbing and extremely clever screenplay, director Shyamalan tips his hat to the horror genre with a few terror-ridden scenes. His script, especially in retrospect, is clever enough to stand on its own without any help from this kind of ugliness. The movie is diminished by someone foaming at the mouth, by others springing horribly into sight in grotesque contortions. I am admittedly not a fan of the genre, but I really believe the demons that haunt poor little Cole would be equally terrifying by their presence alone. That is the single reservation to a strong recommendation to see one of the more intriguing movies of the year.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 491
Studio : Spyglass Entertainment
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 1h46m

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