It’s odd to consider that it’s nearly a decade since Haley Joel Osment told Bruce Willis that he saw dead people for the first time. Since then, Willis has never had a bigger hit, writer-director M Night Shyamalan has seen his career soar and then splutter, while Osment himself went and got himself all grown up. But all three of them should be grateful for the time when their paths crossed here.
The Sixth Sense was, at the time, heavily lauded for its ending, but that’s not where the strength really lies (strong though the conclusion is). Instead, it’s the relationship between Willis and Osment that lifts this from just another ghost story into something much more real and involving. And while it’s perhaps procedure to inject some degree of backlash, there’s little getting away from the fact that Osment is an absolute revelation, giving a performance that he would only come close to matching again with A.I.
The film, too, stands up really very well indeed, and proves a welcome reminder as to why we got excited about M Night Shyamalan in the first place. On this form, he’s the real deal as a writer-director, delivering a layered, tight screenplay, but matching it with a directorial expertise that he doesn’t get enough credit for. For all the holes you may want to poke in the likes of Signs and The Village, there are scenes in both of those films that are just brilliantly directed, and likewise, The Sixth Sense is packed with them. How can something as simple as a figure walking past a doorway, or a room with all the drawers and cupboards open, be played to such chilling effect? You’d think it easy, maybe, but the evidence of a growing roster of Hollywood hack directors suggests otherwise.
Which all leads us to the Blu-ray package, which those who bought the last DVD special edition of The Sixth Sense will have some familiarity with. There are two features that stand out. Firstly, there’s a 40 minute Revelations From The Set piece, that goes behind the scenes on the making of the film. A lot of it has the happy gloss you’d expect, but it’s when M Night Shyamalan steps in front of the camera that it gets interesting, as he discussed the numerous drafts of the script that he dumped on the way to getting the film made. The second feature of note, while a little dry at times, is called Between Two Worlds, and it examines – with the help of Exorcist scribe William Peter Blatty – how the movies mine the spirit world.
The rest of the material has interest, but not as much, looking at the likes of reactions to the film, the storyboard process, and some deleted scenes.
As for the presentation of the film, Sixth Sense is certainly a notch up from its DVD incarnation. It’s not a reference disc, but it’s a fairly sharp picture, with a lot of detail to it. The audio is strong, however, making good use of a broad soundstage, and particularly enjoying the subtleties of the surround sound mix.
While this Blu-ray release doesn’t present an entirely winning argument for an upgrade, and while the extra feature content will be familiar to owners of the DVD, there is some improvement here for your money. The film remains excellent, and arguably the best that its writer-director has made (although I do have a sneaking preference for Unbreakable, warts and all), and given its ability to stand up to the rigours of time, then The Sixth Sense on Blu-ray is at least worth considering.
The Film:The Disc:
The Sixth Sense is out now.