The film that kick-started director M. Night Shyamalan's career and established him as one of the most promising filmmakers in Hollywood, The Sixth Sense was a big hit with critics and audiences alike but how does it hold up today?
Pretty well, actually.
The film sees Bruce Willis play a child psychologist who, after a bad run in with a grown-up ex-patient of his, decides to help a troubled young boy (an impressive Haley Joel Osment) overcome his problems. At first, Willis' character suspects that his parents' divorce might be the cause of the boy's issues but when the latter reveals to him that he can, in fact, see dead people, he is made to promptly rethink his original theory. The Sixth Sense is a stylish, slow-burning, character-driven movie with the occasional, surprisingly effective jump-scare. It's a really well thought-out, beautifully crafted little supernatural thriller with some solid suspense, spot-on performances and an overall gloomy, somewhat unsettling mood.
Bruce Willis gives a restrained performance (this was long before every performance of his felt restrained) comparable to his against-type turn in Twelve Monkeys a few years prior and does a good job with it. Haley Joel Osment (aka the creepy little kid from A.I.) is a revelation and gives a child performance that deserves all the praise it received back in the day. The whole film is about these two characters' verbal interactions and since they're both incredibly miserable for 99% of it, don't expect a laugh riot. The Sixth Sense is definitely one of those "rainy" movies, very much in the vein of popular Japanese horror films like Ringu which were out around the same time, where you're left feeling more depressed than anything else.
That said, the film does care about its characters and, as we start to understand the big mystery the film is withholding from us, we also start to understand those characters and subsequently feel for them. Much has been said about the film's twist, I won't ruin it for you but chances are you know what it is, but suffice it to say that, although it's something of a gimmick, it works. Repeat viewings will suffer because of it, however, since once you understand everything from the beginning, that takes almost all of the intrigue out of the film making it not quite as interesting as you remembered it was.
Overall, The Sixth Sense still holds up as a well made thriller with some terrific performances at its heart. If you haven't seen it, it's definitely worth checking out. Is it worth revisiting if you've seen it already? Sure, just don't expect to fall head-over-heels in love with it all over again.
Still a good movie.