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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sixth Sense: Vista Series
Sixth Sense: Vista Series
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // January 15, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 16, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Original Movie Review From 1999:


"The Sixth Sense" is certainly different from the kind of horror thriller that the advertisements make it out to be. It's a film that demands patience as it slowly leads us down the path that it's set out for us. When a film like this takes it's time, it's up to us whether or not to choose to follow. "6th Sense" has an uncommon amount of confidence in the way that it's paced. Facts are given out with a controlled grace, a spark of storytelling electricity to lead the film on towards another twist. We follow the story on a film like this not only for those reasons, but for the reason that we're presented with fully written characters as well as a smartly written screenplay.

What this film also has quite a bit of is suprisingly good acting. It seems as if director M. Night Shayamalan seems to be the first to harness the talents of Bruce Willis in what I consider to be the best performance of his I've seen. At first glance, the performances here seem to be muted, lacking any sort of intensity. Upon closer look though, there's a subtlety to Willis's performance, a detail in the emotions his character expresses, that hasn't been seen from him before. It's a very impressive performance and actually, redeems the kind of performance that he gave in "Armageddon".

The film revolves around a young boy named Cole(Haley Joel Osment in what's easily one of the top performances of the year so far) who is convinced that he can see spirits of the recently dead- not only that, but that they try to talk to him. The doctor that ends up aiding the young boy(played by Willis) is just coming off of problems of his own as a former patient breaks into his house in a fury to start the film, attacking him. He sees instant similarities in this boy with the former patient that attacked him and he sets out to do his best not to fail this patient. Only in going back to work, he's left his wife(an excellent performance in a film full of many by "Rushmore"'s Oliva Williams) behind, a "second place" in his life.

There's a lot of original tones and styles presented in a story that has a backbone pleasingly similar to that of Christopher McQuarrie's 1995 crime thriller, "The Usual Suspects". There are plenty of twists and turns here as well, but the most interesting thing is how the sort of "horror" material is presented. It's shown in such a way that presents the characters as believing the facts about what this child sees, and the most impressive thing is that the dialogue is written so well that we believe that they believe in the supernatural- that they can believe in the unbelievable. Cole hides his secret from his mother, until an intensely acted scene later in the film that is not only well-acted, but written extremely well. Ace cinematographer Tak Fujimoto also does excellent work here, making interiors as well as the city streets chilling as the camera creeps along.

If there's really anything wrong with this picture, it's that it tends to become a little too slow for its own good on occasion. When the film works, even though it's certainly a slow at points, it maintains a strong sense of direction, never feeling aimless or pointless. Still, the film could have used a little more consistent tension throughout to help the audience through the slow points. There could have been a slight bit of editing here and there as well. The ending is one heck of a shocker, wildly suprising and completely believable almost wrapping up the film too well.

Again, "6th Sense" provides much in the way of great performances(Osment, Willis and especially Toni Collette are quite good), but one wishes that this film could have been given a pinch or two more of energy throughout. Still, even though some of the film does seem to drag, I found the film's little twists rewarding and the performances are certainly some of the best this year. The marketing campaign promotes this film as more of a horror entry, but it's something completely different: it's far more a drama, with creepy elements. There's very few of the sort of horror genre elements that make us jump out of our seat; it's more a chance for good actors to work with good material.

There's a lot of strong elements in this film, especially the performances. A few little improvements would really make this quite an excellent picture. As is though, it's definitely an entertaining late Summer drama, well-acted and well-written.



The DVD


VIDEO: What was written about the first edition: Disney has been doing anamorphic transfers consistently since January of this year, and with a slight exception or two, their new efforts have resulted in some really fine work. Tak Fujimoto("That Thing You Do", "Ferris Buller's Day Off") is really one of my favorite cinematographers, and his work on this picture is wonderful, building up a cold feeling without making the film feel too withdrawn. There's a strong sense of the effort that went into the film's color palette, and the DVD pulls it off nicely. Images are perfectly sharp throughout, and detail is also very good. Again, this is not an extremely colorful movie, but it always manages to be visually interesting.

There aren't any of the usual problems to take away from an otherwise really fine image in terms of quality. No shimmering or pixelation occur throughout, and I was really very pleased at just how natural and clean this image looked. Very good work from Disney.

This new "Vista Series" edition of "The Sixth Sense" presents the film again in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, only this time not only is the presentation THX-Approved (although that doesn't necessarily mean greatness), but the film has the first disc to itself, as the extras have been moved off to disc two. The result is a presentation that appears quite similar to the original release, but some distinct improvements are still noticed. The picture still appears nicely defined and crisp, but also shows some of the same flaws - some specks on the print used infrequently appear and some mild grain is also sometimes visible. Yet, the picture appears smoother and free of pixelation and other problems that the original release occasionally suffered from.



SOUND: What was written about the original edition: "The 6th Sense" is not a very agressive movie in terms of audio, but there is a definite spookiness that lurks deep within the silence of a lot of scenes. There are occasional sounds used to startle the viewer that work successfully, but for the most part, the film's creepy score by James Newton Howard("Runaway Bride", the upcoming "Dinosaur") drifts through many scenes and envelops the viewer quite well. Dialogue is effective and natural, always easily understood.

This new "Vista Series" edition of the picture includes both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 editions of the film, while the Dolby Digital track was the only option on the original release. The film's soundtrack is, as previously noted, a rather quiet affair without the usual "horror" tricks to startle the viewer. Quiet and atmospheric, the track highlights Newton Howard's score quite effectively and adds the occasional surround effect. While not a title that will be used for demonstration purposes, I at least do appreciate the audio's subtle touches and appropriate use. As for the differences between the two soundtracks, there really aren't many. The score sounds a bit warmer and fuller, while the overall sound seemed slightly more natural.


MENUS:: Beautifully animated new menus, with terrific film-themed imagery. The packaging, which is a glossy fold-out packed in a beautiful slip-sleeve, also deserves special mention.

EXTRAS:

Some features included on the original edition return again here. In a nice show of honesty, the back cover even explains what was on the original DVD and what is new to this edition.

Music and Sound Design: This is certainly a very interesting extra feature, or at least I found it to be a pretty fascinating look at one element of the movie. With interviews with composer James Newton Howard as well as the director, we learn a great deal about the process of how the director worked with the composer during the process of working on the movie. It's amazing to listen to the efforts that went into the sound design as well, even down to the little details of empty rooms and the presence that had to be felt during many moments of the picture.

Reaching The Audience: I liked this short documentary quite a bit - there are interviews with many people involved at how they felt about the unexpected success of the movie.

Rules and Clues: This featurette takes a look at how the filmmakers kept the rules of the movie going, and how they kept the film's logic going as well as how they built suspense. It also gives details about the clues along the way - saying that, if you haven't watched the movie before, I definitely think you shouldn't watch this (or really any of the extras) before you watch the movie itself.

Deleted Scenes: Including an introduction from director M. Night Shayamalan, this is 4 deleted scenes, one of which is an alternate ending of the film. Before each scene as well, there is an introduction from the director that explains more specifically what the scene you're about to watch is about, and why it did not end up in the picture. I really enjoyed all of these scenes(they're fairly lengthly, as well) and although they're very good on their own, I understand why the director chose to remove them.

Also: Cast and crew bios and the trailer/2 TV spots.

Reflections From the Set: This is the first of the new supplements to this set. A very well-done 40 minute documentary, this includes interviews with the director, as well as cast members Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment and others. This is not one of those featurettes that discuss what happens in the movie, with tons of clips padding out the running time. While not consistently interesting, the interviews here and occasional behind-the-scenes clips are insightful and enjoyable.

Between Two Worlds: While not film-related, this 38-minute documentary about the paranormal features insights from Shyamalan as well as authors of other "spooky" films such as Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost"). Overall, it's a fairly interesting exploration of the supernatural genre.

The Storyboard Process: This is a 15-minute documentary that offers interviews with Shyamalan and his storyboard artist, who discuss the importance of storyboards in their films. It's very understandable, as the director talks about having only a certain amount of time and money in the budget - rather than having to choose how to film something on set while everyone waits around, it's great to have some plan to start with going in. There's some strong insights and good filmmaking tips included.

Also: DVD notes (included in a packet) and collectible small storyboard.


Final Thoughts: "The Sixth Sense" remains a rewarding, well-written and very well-acted and directed picture that deserves its success. As for this new Vista Series edition of the film from Disney, it's right on the border between worthy of an upgrade from the original and not. There are slight, but noticable differences in the video quality and the addition of a DTS soundtrack. While the featurette on the supernatural might not gain much interest in repeat viewings, the other two new documentaries are very good. Hardcore fans of the original might want to sell their old edition and upgrade, while those who are looking to buy, but haven't purchased yet, should certainly seek out this edition instead of the previous one.

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