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The Usual Suspects
5 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Bryan Singer

Written By:
Christopher McQuarrie

Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Louis Lombardi, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Giancarlo Esposito, Pete Postlethwaite, Dan Hedaya, Suzy Amis, Paul Bartel, Peter Greene

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The Usual Suspects (1995)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
July 18th, 2007

Inspired by Claude Rains's last words in Casablanca, 'The Usual Suspects' from Bryan Singer is a rather ingenious thriller, whose ending may be among the best and most surprisingly deceptive in film history. Unfortunately, that also means that it loses much of its impact on subsequent viewings, when the secret is already known, and you cannot enjoy quite as much, as you did the first time, which is what is typically true of any great movie. We meet a group of criminals, brought together for a heist operation, blackmailed into cooperating by the mythical and mysterious Keyser Soze, and his henchman Mr Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite). Soze may not exist, no one knows who he is, no one has actually seen him, but his name evokes fear in those who hear it. We learn very little about him, too, which adds to his status as a shadowy enigma. Most prominent among the collection of convicts is Dean Keaton (Byrne), a former cop. The others really just follow his lead, though McManus (Stephen Baldwin) is likely the craziest. The story of the heist is narrated by one of those who helped to carry it out, Verbal Kint (Spacey), the only survivor, who spills his guts to Dave Kujan (Palminterri), the detective in charge of the investigation, who is obsessed with bringing Keaton down. Kint speaks with absolute sincerity; Kujan is convinced that Keaton is the mastermind behind it all, and simply pitied and exploited Kint because he was a cripple. The puzzling developments occur against the backdrop of Kint's narration, his memories of the event, and it has something of a Rashomon effect. Surely there were things Kint did not know or see, holes that may be filled in from other perspectives, but no one else is alive to offer them, though Kujan has his own version of what happened, which provides a new angle to Kint's account. The real truth eludes us, and them, initially.

The whole movie is thus essentially a series of flashbacks, triggered by exchanges between these two men. The script unfolds with flawless precision, taking its time to build up the plot, introducing us to these characters, offering us evidence to form assumptions and draw conclusions, and then betrays everything with the kind of twist no one could foresee, no matter how sharp he may be. The convoluted structure is not without its share of subtleties, and it maintains our curiosity, and keeps us guessing, and instills a confidence in us that we know what the end result will be, and who will emerge as the man behind the curtain. But, we are fooled, masterfully.

Spacey won his first Oscar for this role, which is just one of many of the film's terrific performances. Gabriel Byrne is the stand-out, I think, but Palminterri and Postlethwaite are very good, as well, in crucial parts, and it is nice to see Palminterri playing someone other than a gangster, as he usually does. I think Singer neglects Baldwin, Del Toro, and Kevin Pollak, but perhaps he has to, as they are totally secondary, though I do not mean to fault their acting abilities. Really, see what characters you remember, and what ones are just more important and intriguing. It won't be the ones played these three.

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Jul 19, 2007 4:37 PM
I adore this movie I'm a huge Pete Postlethwaite fan.

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