Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Cutting Edge Film Programme: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Figure 1: Movie Poster  [Still Image]
The Usual Suspects (1995) is an American crime- thriller film directed by Bryan Singer. The story unfolds and is pieced together with the use of narrations and flashbacks. It is a film that revolves around five criminals who are brought together into the New York police station because of a crime that happened on board a ship at San Pedro Bay. They are Dean Keaton, a corrupted, former member from the task force, the professional tag team of thieves- Michael McManus and Fred Fenster, Todd Hockney, a hijacker and lastly Roger “Verbal” Kint, a con artist.

Unhappy that they have been accused for a crime that neither of them committed, they came to an agreement to seek revenge against the New York’s Police Department. Their first crime is to hijack a New York Taxi Service. It is a service run by corrupted officers who escorts smugglers to their destinations around the city. It was a success. Following that successful crime, Keaton wanted to come clean and be disassociated with all criminal activities as he dreams of starting anew only finds himself deeper into the crime world. This is when he and the rest met with Kobayashi, a man who works for the mysterious, influential boss from the underworld known as Keyser Söze. None of them had a clue that a crime they had previously committed had an association with Keyser Söze. They had crossed his path at the wrong time and now, they have been commissioned by him to redeem themselves.

Figure 2: Hijack Scene [Still Image]
The interesting storyline is a contributing factor to the success of the film but the great sound and cinematography helps piece everything together. An example of great use of sound and imagery together would be when the camera pans across following the airplane. The sound used in this shot, which was fast and has an increasing tempo evokes a feeling of danger and trouble. The back shot of the plane seems to look like a shark and as sharks are usually associated with danger, this is an example of how it has successfully portrays danger with the usage of great sound and visuals. It also follows through on to the next scene because it was the arrival of a smuggler who was escorted by the corrupted officers from the New York Police Department. This was possible because of the film’s talented editor, John Ottman. Ian Nathan credits and highlights the work of John accurately when he states Plaudits aplenty must also go to editor/composer John Ottman for his skillful manipulation of image and sound.” (Nathan, 2006)
Figure 3: Back View Of Plane Landing [Still Image]
Figure 4: Back View Of A Shark [Still Image]
In addition to the perfect synchronization of the sound and the visuals, Singer used various camera angles to emphasise a point in a scene. The use of close ups to see the bottom of the coffee mug and various elements from the bulletin board in Sergeant Jeffrey office was important to help understand and piece the information from Verbal’s testimony. Mitchell reiterates this point when he says He uses skilful camera movement and editing to make us see what’s going on in Kujan’s mind and thus to identify with him as he realizes how he's been fooled.” (Mitchell, 2000)
Figure 5: Close Up Of The Coffee Mug [ Still Image]
Figure 6: Close Up Shots Of Kajun [Still Image]
In conclusion, the exceptional performance by the cast completes the package of it being a great, successful film. Berardinelli is accurate when he states The Usual Suspects is an accomplished synthesis of noir elements and, as such, is an entertaining entry to the genre.”(Berardinelli, 1995). The famous quote from the film, which was “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”(Verbal, 1995) concluded the third act beautifully because like the devil, the story that Verbal told Kujan has successfully convinced him and the audience for half the film that he was truly innocent and that Keaton was the puppeteer; pulling the strings and taking advantage of the other criminals.

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 The Usual Suspects (1995) [Poster] at http://www.boettcherproductions.com/MySingleEntry/Library/Images/287.jpg (Accessed on 25 March 2014)

Figure 2 Hijack Scene (1995) [Still Image] at http://static.rogerebert.com/redactor_assets/pictures/far-flung-correspondents/too-much-frosting-not-enough-cake/Usual_20Suspects_203.jpg (Accessed on 25 March 2014)

Figure 3 Back View Of Plane Landing (1995) [Still Image] at http://www.byrneholics.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/usual-suspects-screencap-79-crop.jpg (Accessed on 25 March 2014)

Figure 4 Back View Of A Shark [Still Image] at http://www.seaquestdivecenter.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Thresher_shark_Seaquest_Philippines-c.jpg (Accessed on 25 March 2014)

Figure 5 Close Up Of The Coffee Mug (1995) [Still Image] at http://staticmass.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/usual_4.jpg (Accessed on 25 March 2014)

Figure 6 Close Up Shots Of Kajun (1995) [Still Image] at http://staticmass.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/usual_4.jpg (Accessed on 25 March 2014)

List of Bibliography:

Berardinelli, James (1995) The Usual Suspects (1995) At http://www.killermovies.com/u/theusualsuspects/reviews/2bl.html (Accessed on 25 March 14)

Mitchell, David (2000) Sound Lies - Achieving Closure In The Usual Suspects At: http://www.zenoshrdlu.com/zenosusp.htm (Accessed on 25 March 14)

Nathan, Ian (2006) The Usual Suspects (1995) At: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=132353 (Accessed on 25 March 14)

IMDB Quotes(1995) The Usual Suspects (1995) At: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114814/quotes (Accessed on 25 March 2014)


  1. A thorough review, Ayunie :)

    Just a couple of points - towards the beginning, you talk about the group of 5 criminals, and then go on to say that 'neither' of them committed the crime. 'Neither' is used when you are talking about 2 people...you would need 'none of them' in this case.

    You also say 'credits and highlights the work of John accurately when he states...' - always use just the author's surname, not their first name, once you have introduced them. So, '...highlights the work of Ottman accurately...'