Having come out during 1995, The Usual Suspects is now twenty years old. Because it is my second favourite film, I could not resist doing a retrospective on this sensational movie.
The film focuses on a group of career criminals who are lured into doing a very risky heist. The chances of survival are slim, but if they are successful they will have ninety one million dollars to split between them. All the while they are under the shadow of a mysterious gang lord named Keyser Soze. His name instills fear in even the most hardened of criminals. He is believed to be a myth, but they have little choice but to go along with his demands. Told in flashbacks by the character Verbal Kint, this is masterful filmmaking.
The cast in this picture is to die for. It features Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Kevin Pollak, Stephen Baldwin and a ridiculously hilarious Benicio Del Toro in the main roles. Such is the quality of the film, even dud Baldwin brother Stephen comes across as a star. On the side of law and order, Chazz Palminteri, Dan Hedaya and Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) all score very well.
This film has so many amazing moments. The opening sequence, the famous line up scene and the stunning finale are all standouts. Regarding the line up, which introduces us to the characters and their personalities, the laughter was not scripted and was due to the actors play acting with each other. Unable to curb their laughter, it was decided to include it as is. See the extras for the full story.
If you are lucky enough to own the fabulous double disc version, you are in for a treat. It comes crammed with tons of extras, including some highly amusing outtakes, gag reels and the actor’s rather unvarnished opinions of themselves. Kevin Pollak in particular seems to hate almost everyone.
The film has a fantastic atmosphere and looks great, coming across as a modern noir. It won two Oscars, best supporting actor for Kevin Spacey and best original screenplay. If ever a film deserved the latter award, this is it. The plot is almost impregnable to interpretation, at least on your first viewing. It is replete with highly quotable dialogue and ingenious plot points. Incredibly, it was not nominated for either best director or best film, surely one of history’s greatest snubs. Filmed on a meagre budget and employing a mix of up and coming talent and veterans, this is one of cinema’s greatest triumphs.
The only pity is that director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie have never even come close to emulating this film again in the last twenty years. But the truth is they will always be remembered for this film, which will continue to be enjoyed by cinema lovers for many years to come, not just the next twenty.