198. The Sixth Sense [B+]
199. Heat [A-]
The Sixth Sense: A lot of people dump on M. Night Shyamalan, and for good reason. His last tolerable film was probably Signs
, and it still ends with an absurd twist that undermines any believability the movie had established. But going back to his first feature (at least, the first with a wide release, and the most famous) it's easier to see why studios keep throwing money at him. Here he takes a simple premise (a kid can see the ghosts and a psychologist who has suffered personal and professional trauma tries to help him) and runs with it. Willis' performance is restrained and muted--perfect for the material--but it's Haley Joel Osment who steals the show. Usually, child actors are terrible, but Osment demonstrates more craft than some adult actors can lay claim to, and he does it during sustained takes. The most emotional scene, frankly, is not when Willis uncovers the film's infamous twist, but in the scene before when Cole (Osment) tells his secret to his mother for the first time. It's a quiet little film from a young writer/director that shows a lot of promise. Alas, I think Shyamalan took the wrong cues from his critics, and spent most of his later films replicating the twist ending instead of the emotional core that makes it most watchable. If I had any complaint, it would be the heavy-hand Shyamalan uses to convey certain plot points at times (he pounds the bit where Willis listens to the tape of his past subject into the audience, well past what is needed). But it's still a solid film that sets a terrific mood.
is either one subplot too heavy or an hour too short (and it already clocks in at 160 minutes), but that doesn't bother me all that much. Pacino and DeNiro are terrific, and the supporting cast is filled with actors of similar talent in roles of all sizes. The cinematography, the editing, and the sparse musical score are just perfect. Perhaps one day a longer version will be released, but if not, this version will due. It's a great, if not perfect, crime thriller.