The Usual Suspects, directed by Bryan Singer in 1995, follows the investigation of a criminal gang after a particularly perilous boat heist is infiltrated by one mysterious ‘Keyser Soze’; told from the perspective of the only remaining survivor. With a necessarily convoluted plot and a memorable cast of character actors, Singer manages to keep audiences entertained just long enough for the ‘whodunnit?’ of Keyser Soze to make a prominent stance in the film. With every other scene, the film enchants us with interesting compositions and set designs, with particular emphasis on extreme close-up shots (see Fig 2) and seemingly perpetual cigarettes ablaze limply on the mouths of the lead actors.
Regarding The Usual Suspects, I believe that Roger Ebert put it best by concluding that “To the degree that I do understand, I don’t care.” (Ebert, 1995) which perfectly summed up my own struggle to differentiate personal opinion from a well-constructed narrative. We are introduced to the enigma that is ‘Keyser Soze’ through various accounts of his unrelenting determination, which is predominantly backed-up by a distorted scene in which Soze murders his family in order to assert dominance over his adversaries. Sadly, the character is given very little dimension other than this, which leads to a ‘climactic’ finale in which narrator Verbal (Kevin Spacey) is revealed to be Keyser Soze. In terms of film being driven solely by its plot-twist, The Usual Suspects thrives in its ability to misdirect and confuse the audience (often unintentionally) to deliver a satisfying third act, which unfortunately is all that it delivers. The film is carried by its array of diverse characters, none of which feel the need to earn our approval by performing eccentrically but rather through realistic, believable character traits.
On a more positive note, a selection of compositional shots and settings gave the film a certain amount of depth, which nicely illuminated the transitional jumps of the story. “The staging and angles of the scenes between Spacey and Palminteri are amazingly well handled to never make it feel like the same old thing every time.” (Michalak, 2012) In particular, the moonlit cave in which Fenster is buried and the traditional Japanese gazebo at which the group are confronted. (See Fig 3)
Regardless of the fact that The Usual Suspects felt like a Tarantino screenplay taking itself too seriously, the film does boast a cinematic spectacle and features a unique perspective on contemporary criminal drama. The glorification of a strong group mentality, even in such a dark context, has made the film a greatly influential tool to countless TV shows and video games, giving it a rightful place in the hall of fame… For now.
Ebert, R. (1995) The Usual Suspects Review
http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-usual-suspects-1995 (Accessed on 25/03/14)
Michalak, N. (2012) The Usual Suspects Review
http://forevercinematic.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/the-usual-suspects-1995/ (Accessed on 25/03/14)
Fig 1. The Usual Suspects Poster (1995) From: The Usual Suspects - Directed by: Bryan Singer
http://vicvapor.com/the-usual-suspects-movie-poster (Accessed on 25/03/14)
Fig 2. The Usual Suspects Screenshot (1995) From: The Usual Suspects - Directed by: Bryan Singer
http://www.listal.com/viewimage/1600567 (Accessed on 25/03/14)
Fig 3. The Usual Suspects Screenshot (1995) From: The Usual Suspects - Directed by: Bryan Singer
http://www.listal.com/viewimage/1600534 (Accessed on 25/03/14)