No matter how much M. Night Shyamalan continues to go downhill, this will continue to hold up as a great film.
Influenced by an old episode of the show "Are You Afraid of the Dark?", this is an engrossing psychological thriller about a troubled child psychologist named Dr. Malcolm Crowe who begins to treat a gifted boy named Cole who confesses he has the ability to see the dead.
Both Dr. Crowe and Cole are troubled, and share a sense of alienation, and while Crowe should be the one helping Cole, it seems that there could be a turning of the tables, with Cole being the one helping Dr. Crowe put his own demons to rest.
Twist endings were nothing new when this film came out, but it seemingly resurrected the trend (for better or worse). Heck, the trend has continued through most of the rest of Shyamalan's own work since then. It is a good twist, and it works, but I like this film regardless of the twist. I mostly just like how well the twist works, and the point that it gives the film, making you realize it's really about something other than you initially think it is.
In general, this is just an extremely well crafted film. Everything is very deliberate, thought out, and expertly set up and executed. This is some great writing and direction, and it's all highlighted by some excellent and evocative cinematography and camera work.
At the core of the film though, and what really holds it all together are the two central performances from Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment,. Willis proved he can really excel at serious drama, and was even awarded an Oscar nod for his efforts. He's great ,but actually manages to get practically outshined by Osment. Most child actors are so-so at best, but this kid knocks it out of the park here, and it's a shame he's pretty well fallen into obscurity. These two have great chemistry with one another, and you really get drawn into their world and want to see them get through their situations. The other performers are also good, but mostly overshadowed by these two, A big exception would have to be the brief but memorable appearance of Donnie Wahlberg as a former patient of Dr. Crowe's. It's chillingly effective.
Actually, 'chillingly effective' is a great way to sum of the whole film. It's moody, atmospheric, eerie, and unforgettable, largely because of the things I've already mentioned, but also because of the terrific score as well.
This film gets talked about a lot, and I doubt any of what I've said are new contributions, but trust this film's reputation as great and go see it if you, for some reason, haven't already.