M.Night Shyamalan. In the opinion of this blogger, a one-trick pony. But the pony performing the singular trick is a pure thoroughbred to say the least. A throughbred ridden by the one, the only...
JOHN F'N McCLAIN
But, unlike his action hero counterpart, Bruce Willis is subdued in this film and that is good.
Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist in Philadelphia, returns home one night with his wife, Anna Crowe , after having been honored for his work. She says that everything in the world is second to his job including her. The two then discover that they are not alone; a young man(what is it about Donnie Wahlberg and shots to the head in horror films) appears brandishing a gun. He says that he does not want to be afraid anymore and accuses Crowe of failing him. Crowe recognizes him as Vincent Grey, a former patient whom he treated as a child for hallucinations. Grey shoots Crowe in the abdomen, and seconds later kills himself with the gun.
The next autumn, Crowe begins working with another patient, nine-year-old Cole Sear, who has a condition similar to Vincent's. Crowe becomes dedicated to the boy, though he is haunted by doubts over his ability to help him after his failure with Vincent. Meanwhile, he is also very worried that his relationship with his wife is beginning to end due to his dedication to his work.
Once Crowe earns his trust, Cole eventually confides in him that he "sees dead people that walk around like regular people". Though Crowe at first thinks Cole is delusional, he eventually believes that Cole is telling the truth and that Vincent may have had the same ability. He suggests to Cole that he should try to find a purpose for his gift by communicating with the ghosts, perhaps to aid them with their unfinished business on Earth. Cole at first does not want to, because the ghosts terrify him, but he soon decides to try it. One is an overworked wife abused by her husband who slit her wrists; another that tries to hurt Cole is only heard as a voice who starts pleading calmly to Cole to let him out of the dark cupboard because he's suffocating, then yells at Cole that he didn't steal "the Master's horse" and threatens to attack Cole if he doesn't obey. The third ghost appears very briefly; a boy a bit older than Cole asks him to come into the room, to find his father's gun. The boy turns around to show that he has a large gunshot exit wound on the back of his head.
Cole finally talks to one of the ghosts, a very ill girl who appears in his bedroom, who promptly vomits in his tent. He finds where the girl, Kyra Collins, lived and goes to her house during her funeral reception. Kyra died after a prolonged illness and funeral guests note that Kyra's younger sister is starting to get sick, too. Kyra's ghost appears and gives Cole a box, which is opened to reveal a videotape. When Cole gives it to Kyra's father, the videotape shows Kyra's mother putting floor cleaner fluid in Kyra's food while she cared for Kyra during her illness. The continual illness may indicate slow poisoning as a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Cole confesses his secret to his mother, Lynn. Although his mother at first does not believe him, Cole soon tells Lynn that her own mother once went to see her perform in a dance recital one night when she was a child, and that Lynn was not aware of this because her mother stayed in the back of the audience where she could not be seen. He also tells her that the answer to a question she asked when alone at her mother's grave, "Do I make you proud?", was "Every day". Lynn tearfully accepts this as the truth.
And there is the ending which if you haven't seen it, I'm not telling you but it involves blowing a huge building...no wait...nevermind.
There is so much to praise in this film from the genuine suspense, to Haley Joel Osment's well-deserved Academy Award-nominated performances, to the twist ending which sadly Shyamalan milks way too much in his later movies. If you want a truly great supernatural film and find the slow unfolding of The Changeling not your thing, then look no further than this.