Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Usual Suspects (1995)

TOP 100 FILMS: #55

After several criminals, and an informant, are killed in a boat explosion, Customs officer Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) interrogates the only survivor, a cripple named Verbal King (Kevin Spacey). Verbal informs Dave of a collection of career criminals, lead by Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), who get caught in the middle of an incident with a criminal overlord, Keyser Soze.

There's a certain mystique that goes along with some movies. As mystique's go The Usual Suspects probably has one of the all time granddaddies. Filled with a rather straight forward tale of a group of criminals and the tragic events that lead to their current situation, it's that mood set by Singer that makes The Usual Suspects work so heavily. The Usual Suspects lures you into a sense of narrative simplicity, then in a brief moment of narrative genius it forces you to question the reality of everything you've just seen. This moment has become such a powerful tool in the world of film, inspiring films such as Fight Club (which comes in at #50 on my list), that it has elevate beyond just a great cinematic moment.

What lets that moment work beyond any argument though is the acting. Grounded by a brilliant performance from Kevin Spacey, with solid acting from Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Pete Postleethwaite, Chazz Palminteri, Benicio Del Toro, and Kevin Pollack. Their ability to make the characters likable enough for us to care, but dark enough for us to fear keeps the viewer stuck to the screen throughout the run time. Concentrating only on this collection of anti-heroes, Singer is able to spend his time on the story spending only the basic necessary time on the character development. He's allowed to play to the character's strengths and weaknesses, really giving the audience a sense of connection with them.

Though of course without Spacey I'm not convinced this film would work. With great lines and execution, Spacey dominates every scene he's in, really giving a sort of kinder, more emotional side to this hard nosed film (such as "How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?" - a personal favorite line). Singer's steady hand behind the camera, never trying to do much, really amplifies the film's story, bringing out such performances, and keeping the film well paced. As movies go The Usual Suspects walks that thin line, and could have easily become a predictable mess, but Singer never allows this. Consistent, fluid, and just overall entertaining, The Usual Suspects is one of those truly impactful films.

An amazing film with solid narrative, acting, and an ending for the ages, I always enjoy this film, even after multiple viewings.

2 better thoughts:

DEZMOND said...

I don't know why people always forget that this is Bryan Singers movie. They always connect him only with super heroes.

Dan (Top10Films) said...

I think Singer's lost his way a little bit with all the superhero stuff. This is his best film and features one of the very best twist endings.

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