Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Cutting Edges 11: 'The Sixth Sense' (1999)

Fig.1 'The Sixth Sense' (1999) Poster
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, 'The Sixth Sense' (1999) is a movie that has played a part in influencing directors to think outside the box with their storylines. A story driven by tension and outstanding performances from Bruce Willis and the Young Hayley Joel Osment. 'The Sixth Sense' is a beautifully paced, dramatic, romance-horror.

Fig.2 Film Still
SPOILER ALERT! The third act of this film has captivated audiences and stunned them due to it's big reveal. Even after watching it for a second time it still shocks a viewer and more often than not it will bring a tear to the eye. Bruce Willis's character is dead. Killed by one of his ex-patients at the beginning of the film we are led to believe that he has survived his injuries and is living a somewhat normal life. We go on a journey with him as we see that he is haunted by his past, but in actual fact it is he who is doing the haunting, he watches over his widowed wife unaware that he is no longer alive.  'Willis plays Crowe in a soft-spoken mode. No smirking. His acting is subdued, heartfelt and full of loneliness' (LaSalle, 1999) it's the performance that Bruce Willis gives that brings you into this world, he doesn't over act in a way that pushes you away, you connect with him because he feels real, he acts like someone you would walk by in the street not knowing the struggles they are facing.

Throughout the entirety of the film the director has created a realistic world flooded with unusual happenings that lure the viewer in to the lives of Malcolm and Cole, played by Bruce Willis (Malcolm) and Hayley Joel Osment (Cole). In a review by Roger Ebert he said, 'I have to admit I was blind-sided by the ending. The solution to many of the film's puzzlements is right there in lain view, and the movie hasn't cheated, but the very boldness of the storytelling carried me right past the crucial hints and right through to the end of the film, where everything takes on an intriguing new dimension.' (Ebert, 1999) During the film, the director seems to give some direct yet subtle hints that the film comes with such jaw-dropping twist. In a conversation with Malcolm, Cole tells him that stories should have a twist, a little foreshadowing nod to what is to come.
The film's score subliminally stands out, the horrendously low tones that escalate into high pitched ones create a bold sense of threat that puts you in a cinematic trance, you want to look away but you can't, in the beginning you wonder, what is it that the young boy is staring at with such intent.

Fig.3 Film Still
The Colour palette of the film is typically mundane, there isn't anything that seems out of the ordinary, apart from the colour red. 
The colour red can be seen during times of horror or discomfort for the boy, like the arrival of a ghost. It is seen as a dangerous colour that serves it's purpose as a warning to the viewer that a dark and hopelessly misunderstood being is near. In times like these the suspenseful soundtrack can be heard. The set design within the film, is that of pure genius, there isn't anything about it that screams horror or that something scary lives within. 'The Sixth Sense, which is about X-Files-ishly "believable" fears and coincidences, enjoys setting up X-Files-ish moments of pleasurable anxiety. The that end, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (Wide Awake), working with cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (The Silence of the Lambs", creates a coolly askew visual style, investing everyday sights - doorknobs, staircases - with unexplained menace' (EW, 2002)

As a viewer 'The Sixth Sense' is still a refreshing and thoughtful film, it's plot is meaningful and the performances within it are honest. You feel emotionally invested with the characters and wish them only the best. It is a well balanced film that has inspired many TV shows and movies to spoof it's famous quote, "I see dead people". It can be said that M. Night Shyamalan created a masterpiece in filmmaking. 


Ebert, R. (1999) 'The Sixth Sense' At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-sixth-sense-1999 Accessed on: 12/04/2016

EW, (2002) 'The Sixth Sense' At: http://www.ew.com/article/2002/07/03/movie-review-sixth-sense Accessed on: 12/04/2016

LaSalle, M (1999) 'Boy Is Dead-On Amazing in Sixth Sense Thriller' At: http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/Boy-Is-Dead-On-Amazing-In-Sixth-Sense-Thriller-2916445.php Accessed on: 12/04/2016


Figure 1. 'The Sixth Sense' (1999) [Poster] At: http://cdn.traileraddict.com/content/walt-disney-pictures/thesixthsense.jpg Accessed on: 12/04/2016

Figure 2. [Film Still] At: http://montages.no/files/2013/12/lamp-3-600x338.jpg Accessed on: 12/04/2016

Figure 3. [Film Still] At: https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2014/10/22/1413975869329/The-Sixth-Sense-012.jpg?w=620&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=8a7a1375e4211dbe97b37397ae36ee03 Accessed on: 12/04/2016


  1. I like your observation about this film being 'honest' - for all its tricks, it's exactly that.

  2. Lovely thoughtful review Tom :)