My 5 All-Time Favorite Mystery and Thriller Movies
(First published at CriminalElement.com)
Because I've always been drawn to the thriller-suspense genre as a writer and producer, I'm often asked to name my favorite films. So...here goes!
The Sixth Sense (1999)Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), a prominent child psychologist, is shot in his home by an ex-patient, Vincent Grey (Donnie Walberg). Dr. Crowe falls to the floor with a stomach wound. His patient then turns the gun on himself.
Months later, Dr. Crowe is haunted by doubts about his failure to help Vincent Grey as he tries to treat a young boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who is suffering from a similar condition of depression and paranoia. Cole believes he can see “dead people who walk around like regular people.”
The boy talks to the ghost of a young girl named Kyra Collins (Misha Barton), who was poisoned by her mother. Cole’s mother (Tony Collette) initially doesn’t believe Cole’s story about the poisoning but eventually comes to accept her child's abilities. During this time, Malcolm’s wife (Olivia Williams) is unaware of what has been happening because her husband is actually dead.
The brooding atmosphere that is conjured during this movie is edgy but not intrusive, because the filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan, does not want to telegraph the major twist ending and goes to great lengths not to reveal it. Everything appears normal for Dr. Malcolm Crowe and his young patient Cole, and yet nothing around them is normal at all. The filmmaker plays his scenes truthfully, with Malcolm’s wife moving in and out of them while still grieving her husband’s loss. The audience does not realize that she is actually not a part of these scenes. She does not see her husband at all. He is gone.
It is an eerie, surrealistic scenario that is not resolved until Malcolm’s wedding ring falls to the floor, which the audience realizes he has not been wearing the entire time. At that point, Dr. Crowe realizes that he is the other “dead person” that Cole has been seeing. The shock of this revelation is one of the greatest twists in film storytelling and stays with the audience for a long time. There are great performances in the movie from Bruce Wills, Haley Joel Osment, Olivia Williams, and Misha Barton, but on a visceral level, it is the storytelling itself that haunted me as a viewer.