The Sixth Sense (Blu-ray)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 107 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French; 2.0 stereo Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Dutch
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: September 30, 2008
Review Date: September 30, 2008
The best thing about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense is how beautifully it works as a film even when one knows its secrets. Not just a ghost story, this marvelous film is one of the most emotionally satisfying dramas of the 1990s, and its combination of heartfelt emotions, a genuinely spooky ambiance, and that famous twist ending make it one of a kind. The true mark of a wonderfully made movie is how well it works on repeated viewings once all of the secrets are known. Like The Crying Game and The Usual Suspects, two other films of the 1990s which relied on unexpected late twists to knock audiences out of their seats, The Sixth Sense has plenty of elemental human drama that renders its paranormal underpinnings as icing on an already very well crafted cake.
After a shocking attack on him and his wife by a violently disturbed former patient Vincent Gray (Donnie Wahlberg), child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) takes on the case of troubled youngster Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). Unpopular at school and seemingly burdened by pressures he won’t communicate with anyone, Cole has a hard time trusting Dr. Crowe. Over the course of weeks, however, Cole gradually reveals to the doctor that he sees dead people, spirits who seem angry and have inflicted wounds on his body in a kind of desperation he doesn’t understand and finds impossible to deal with. Never having coped with quite this kind of revelation before and not quite sure how to handle it, Crowe struggles with wanting to do right by Cole and not fail him as he did Vincent while at the same time sensing that his marriage is in trouble with his ever-more distant wife Anna (Olivia Williams).
Far from being a mere ghost story (though it certainly is that, too), The Sixth Sense is a story about communication. The very need to impart thoughts, wishes, dreams, and fears to another person seems essential to the human condition, and Shyamalan’s script features scene after scene where that need to connect or the frustration imparted when one can’t get through to another is keenly, even violently felt. From that heart-stopping confrontation in the bedroom between the Crowes and the unbalanced Vincent to the unforgettable confessional between Cole and his distraught mother Lynn (Toni Collette) in a car near the film’s end, The Sixth Sense achieves a brilliant luminescence by its conclusion as relationships become clearer, and thoughts and feelings finally get that essential airing. Shyamalan’s camera gives us multiple views of the proceedings from angel’s eye views on those below to frightful glimpses of the ghosts that are roaming freely around Cole’s home. His choices are always novel going so far as to shoot scenes reflected in the glass of a plaque or in a shiny doorknob.
Shyamalan has done a remarkable job at directing his actors in the film; the three central performances are peerless. Bruce Willis’ work is notable for its stillness and thoughtful depth (shown for the director again in his next remarkable film Unbreakable). Toni Collette’s abject confusion over her son’s unfathomable behavior is superb in its alternately tender and tough concern for his welfare. Haley Joel Osment, of course, gives one of the great child performances ever as Cole. As precise and involving as any adult actor, Osment doesn’t make a false step capturing Cole’s terror, inner strength, and yet fragile exterior with a innocent likeability that’s captivating. His is the performance that makes or breaks the effectiveness of The Sixth Sense, and the film’s smashing worldwide reception reflects the mastery of craft that Osment displays in every frame of the work.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a handsome 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Flesh tones are exquisitely rendered in this transfer, and sharpness is almost always superlative. Many places where ordinary transfers would have encountered innumerable problems with compression artifacting (thinly striped wallpaper, brickwork, blinds, latticework) are rendered here with only the slightest bit of shimmer in an off moment. The image does appear to have undergone some DNR processing, but on checking back to the original DVD release, it too seemed processed to a certain degree leading me to think this may be the way the filmmakers want the movie to look on home video. Skin tones also don't have that waxy appearance that often characterizes DNR processing at its worst. Black levels are superior to the blacks in the Unbreakable Blu-ray, and shadow detail is excellent. The film has been divided into 19 chapters.
The PCM 5.1 audio track (4.6 Mbps) gives a lovely wide ranging sound to James Newton Howard's evocative score. Elsewhere, the surrounds aren’t used to their maximum effectiveness, but the dialog rooted in the center channel and the subtle effects and music are certainly efficient enough to draw the viewer wholly into the film.
All of the previous bonus features from other releases are brought over to the Blu-ray release. They’re presented in 480i.
“Reflections from the Set” is a 39 ¼-minute overview of the film featuring the director and stars Bruce Willis, Donnie Walhberg, Haley Joel Osment, and Toni Collette talking about the process of making the movie.
“Between Two Worlds” features director Shyamalan along with writer/directors William Peter Blatty and Bruce Joel Rubin (among others) talking about death, the nature of spirituality, and the various films they’ve been involved with which feature this theme. It runs 37 ¼ minutes.
“Moving Pictures” shows director Shyamalan and artist Brick Mason working on the elaborate storyboards which he used to visualize the film before one second was actually shot. This featurette runs 14 ¾ minutes.
“Music and Sound Design” gives a 6 ½-minute summary of how the music and sound effects work within the film. This feature is narrated by composer James Newton Howard.
“Reaching the Audience” allows the filmmakers to crow a bit about the tremendous box-office success of the film. This runs 3 ½ minutes.
“Rules and Clues” summarizes the rules Shyamalan used in writing and filming the various dead people within the story. This featurette runs 6 minutes.
Three deleted scenes and an extended ending (which was also shown in the “Reflections” featurette) are available for viewing, each introduced by director Shyamalan with explanations why each was dropped. All together, these scenes and introductions run 15 minutes.
There are three trailers available for viewing. The original theatrical trailer runs 2 ¼ minutes, while two TV spots run 30 seconds and 15 seconds respectively.
The Sixth Sense is a film that works its spell no matter how many times one has seen it. This excellent Blu-ray release is a beautiful presentation of one of M. Night Shyamalan’s best achievements.
The package also contains a $10 rebate coupon which viewers who purchased one of the previous DVD releases of The Sixth Sense can redeem by stepping up to the Blu-ray version.