Friday, September 30, 2011

Because the twist was beside the point... What those who've ripped off The Sixth Sense over the last twelve years have gotten wrong about its finale.

With Dream House opening today, sans press screenings, audiences will get a chance to discover, if they choose, just how much of the film has been spoiled by the trailer.  Early reviews indicate that the movie is both stunningly boring and basically a hodge-podge of classic twist ending cliches.  While it's fashionable to blame The Sixth Sense for the last ten years of last-minute 'gotchas!', the would-be thrillers that have followed in M. Night Shyamalan's footsteps missed a crucial distinction.  The last minute reveal that closes The Sixth Sense isn't really the finale of the film.  It's not a big zinger that the entire movie revolves around.  The movie, at its core, is a human drama about a troubled young boy and his struggling single mother.  With painfully good work by Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette (both of whom damn-well should have won Oscars) and a genuinely sympathetic and thoughtful screenplay by M. Night in his prime, the climactic reveal, and really all of the supernatural material is merely a means to an end.  It is, to paraphrase one of the film's last lines, always second to the heartbreaking human drama.  The movie doesn't climax with the revelation about Bruce Willis's ultimate fate.  It truly climaxes one scene earlier, as mother and son finally open up to each other and reach an understanding that will truly strengthen their relationship.  The emphasis on character over thrills and chills is among a handful of reasons why The Sixth Sense is still a masterpiece and one of the best films of the 1990s.  The scene above, the true finale to The Sixth Sense, is probably the best thing M. Night Shyamalan has ever filmed, and it is one of the main reasons I still haven't given up on him.

Scott Mendelson     


Leslie Byron Pitt said...

I've always preferred Signs and Unbreakable over the sixth sense. I got a stronger emotional punch from them. Your right about M Night looking at Character drama over the beginning. However, as the years have gone by a mixture of ego, bad scripts and bad storytelling have got in the way. With this said, a film is a film is a film and like any director with talent, the next venture could be something remarkable. Masterpiece? I was always more of a Blair With fan that year ;-)

mouse said...

I'm not fond of Signs (mixed bag for me) but I generally agree with you. I think Shamaylan has forgotten, himself, that the twist is not the point.


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