“A boy who communicates with spirits that don’t know they’re dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.”
First, let me say that I tried really hard to not let my dislike for M. Night Shyamalan to get in my way of watching this film and giving it a proper grade.
Second, let me say that I have watched this film before and I still do not understand how the “plot twist” ending was such a big surprise to people. I just don’t understand.
Okay. So, let me start from the beginning.
This film does very well with the screenplay “rule” of hooking your audience within the first ten minutes. I mean, the movie opens up and BAM. Bruce Willis is shot. Not to mention we get a ton of exposition in those first ten minutes. So, that’s good.
Now, let me explain why I don’t understand why the ending was such a surprise. We see Bruce Willis’s character, Dr. Malcolm Crowe, gets shot in the very beginning of the film. We do not see him die, but we immediately jump forward, bypassing any aftermath and never mentioning it again. From this point until the big reveal of what Cole Sear’s secret is, I understand not guessing the ending. How could you? However, I do always wonder why Malcolm never once questions why the only person that is actually speaking to him is Cole. I mean, he had to have come into contact with other people besides his wife and Cole, right? Take for instance Lynn Sear, Cole’s mother. Malcolm goes to Cole’s apartment to speak with him for one of his sessions, and he’s already seen sitting there with Lynn when Cole finally arrives. Now, you’re telling me that, at no point, when he arrived or when he was sitting there “with” Lynn, and she didn’t really speak to him, that he didn’t think anything was strange about that? So, now we’re at the scene where the Cole’s big secret is revealed. He flat out says “I see dead people, walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.” Please tell me that somebody in an somewhere, upon seeing this film when it was released, went “Ooh.” Because M. Night Shyamalan pretty much gives the whole film away right there. And what is the point of a “plot twist ending” if the audience guesses it before it happens?
I will give Shyamalan this: some of his shots and the way he frames certain things in this film creates a great sense of uneasiness, which was the point. Like the shot of the spiraling staircase, for example. Or, any time that he tightly frames somebody’s face. The music and the slow and steady zooms also help to build suspense.
The acting was good. Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear gave a wonderful performance, very convincing. Bruce Willis was, well, Bruce Willis. It’s very rare that I don’t love him in a film. Toni Collette does a fantastic job as a worrisome mother of a boy who might, in fact, be crazy. And I must mention Trevor Morgan in the role of Tommy Tammisimo. Little Tommy Tammisimo should have been nicer in this film. Karma’s a bitch. No wonder he gets lost on an island full of dinosaurs’ years later.
Also, more than anything with this film, I want to see a recut montage of Cole listening to the ghosts and helping them, paired with really upbeat, fun music.
All in all, I do find this film enjoyable. I find it less enjoyable when Shyamalan has a cameo, but I looked past that. I also looked past the line Cole has when Malcolm is telling him a bedtime story. I believe the line was “You have to add some twists and stuff.”