|Dir:||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Star:||Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Colette, Olivia Williams|
|Cert / Year:||15 - R / 1999|
On the night that he is awarded by the city of Philadelphia for his distinguished work in the field of child psychology, Dr. Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis) is attacked and shot by a former child patient called Vincent (Donnie Wahlberg) whom Crowe had treated when he was younger and had been unable to help. The following autumn/fall and fuelled by the knowledge that his failure with Vincent had caused the attack in his own home and Vincent's then suicide, Crowe discovers an eight year old boy whose psychological condition is very similar to that of Vincent as a child.
Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) had been referred to Crowe the previous year by another shrink who had been unable to get close to Cole but had noted that the boy displayed signs of mood disorder. Upon meeting Cole, Crowe notices scars and bruises upon the childs body which he assumes are evidence of possible parental abuse by his mother Lynn (Toni Collette) whom he has lived with since she and his father divorced. After spending a lot more time with Cole however, he soon discovers that this bright and intelligent child is not a victim of parental abuse at all. And what was originally assumed to be a a mood disorder is in actuality a means of Cole to hide a startling secret, which is the source of his strange behaviour. Cole can see and talk to dead people.
Crowe has been suffering virtual isolation from his wife Anne (Olivia Williams) since the shooting, which is putting great strain upon their marriage and upon Crowe personally. Crowe at one point doubts that he can help Cole and tries stop seeing him in an attempt to try and save his marriage. Crowe is unwilling to turn his back on the child and eventually accepts Cole's "gift" and determines that the only way to help him is to try to guide him in it's proper use. Purely as a means to end the violent episodes which have been plagueing him and give him the confidence to face the world properly and without ridicule or fear. Whilst helping the boy, Crowe learns as much from him as Cole learns from Crowe which all leads to Malcom having to face the ominous and yet inescapable truth.
I have to admit that I didn't get any shocks from this film and as a long term reader of the works of Brian Lumley (Specifically the "Necroscope" series) I found no real surprises with the film which I also found quite predictable. That said I also have to admit that M. Night Shyalaman has written and directed and altogether intelligent, compelling and very well put together movie.
Bruce Willis is simply stunning and provides what is quite possibly one of the best acting performances of his career. No gung-ho vest wearing hero this time around, instead he is quite subdued and portrays his character with a supreme humility, compassion and intelligence. You can't help but feel his anguish over the course of the film as he battles to come to terms with Cole's "gift" whilst attempting to save his marriage. Haley Joel Osment is positively remarkable and his talent really shines through with his portrayal of Cole, coupled with a superb on-screen chemistry with Bruce Willis which draws you into the story. Excellent supporting performances by Toni Collette and Olivia Williams and a brief but noticeable cameo by M. Night Shyalaman himself as a doctor. (is he going to do a Hitchcock and make a cameo in all of his films I wonder) Donnie Wahlberg is almost unrecognizable in his brief performance of Vincent but does carry off his role better than his singing with "New Kids On The Block".
The direction is brilliant and occasionally ingenious but remains constant throughout, and is a credit to Shyalaman who as well as directing a superb supernatural thriller also wrote it. Compliments to Tak Fujimoto because his direction of the photography combined with the Exorcist-esque music provided by James Newton Howard gives the film a superb atmosphere which almost reaches out from the screen.
I have to admit I was quite impressed by the style, story, performances and general production of this film. I would hope that there is more to come of equal standard from this creative team.
|1.85:1||A good clean grain free and sharp picture|
|5.1 Dolby Digital||An atmospherically chilling surround soundtrack|
|Theatrical Trailer & 2 TV Spots|
|Production Notes with Filmmaker and cast biographies|
|Interview with M. Night Shyalaman|
|Documentaries "Rules & Clues", "Reaching the Audience" and "Music & Sound Design"|
|Storyboard to film comparisons|
|A good presentation complemented by a host of interesting extras but NO directors commentary which was a little disappointing|