The Usual Suspects (1995)

Intriguing, unpredictable, intense. The dialogue and story take some time to become engaging, but once the ball starts rolling, the fascinating and well casted characters take on a life of their own as the film approaches its exciting conclusion. Recommended? This is a movie worth watching twice.

Photo Credit: IMDb

Photo Credit: IMDb

The story behind this thriller is very exciting. The beginning seems to drag a bit, the conversations coming off like “blah blah…conspiracy…blah blah…innocent…blah blah…let’s work together…” with very unoriginal dialogue that is easy to tune out. It’s possible that an audience watching this movie for the second time might look for or even find details the second time around that they missed during the first. However, once the action kicks in and the story begins to unravel, the dry crime drama grows into an unpredictable and suspenseful thriller.

The casting in this movie was about as good as it could be. Each of the characters has its own level of quirk and ruthlessness that sets them apart and the actors that portrayed them all seem to match. Stephen Baldwin’s cool, proud and unforgiving McManus, Kevin Pollack’s “innocent by day and bad boy by night” approach to Hockney and Benicio Del Toro’s relaxed, hot shot take on Fenster round out the supporting members of the team. Gabriel Byrne takes on Keaton cleverly, presenting the conflict between a mass criminal he was and the upright citizen that he wants to be with grace. But it was Kevin Spacey’s performance as Verbal, taking twisted to an Oscar winning level for this movie, which stole the show.

One very odd, but noteworthy, decision for the movie came from the use of this John Ottman score. The classical, orchestral sound in the background of some of the more intense confrontational scenes created an interesting clash. Scenes like those in a different movie would typically be accompanied by a heavy percussion and bass track, stressing the thrill and tension behind the action. With strings and woodwinds playing in the background, there is still tension, but with a cleaner cut feel, like no one wants to get their hands dirty. And this mood drives the movie in a different way, making the characters feel less ruthless and more like they will only do what they must and are careful about entering their worst case scenarios.

The Usual Suspects is definitely not a movie that you judge for its first half alone. It presents a clever and well developed story brought to life by charismatic actors and a commendable production crew. Director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie assembled what has become a timeless masterpiece that is definitely worth seeing.


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