Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Director: Bryan Singer
Writer:    Christopher McQuarrie
Cast:       Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite

A sole survivor tells the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which begin when five criminals meet at a seemingly random police lineup. 

Many films that got released after Reservoir Dogs tend to get tarred as Tarantinosque because of what people perceived as style influences. Sometimes these comparisons can be very lazy because it could mean any one or more of the following: Non-linearity, Violence, Profanity, Inane ramblings about things that got nothing to do with the plot. For me the thing that is the most prominent characteristic of a Tarantino film is the last one-random conversations between the characters. I guess Usual Suspects got tarred with the same brush because of the liberal use of the F word and its non-linearity. While Tarantino films are never about the plot or mystery, Singer-McQuarrie film is all about that and it is one of the best in this category. Tarantino described it as one of the worst among what are categorized as post-Tarantino films. It will depend on what your definition of post-Tarantino film would be but it is certainly one of the best films from the 90s.

1995 was the breakout year for Kevin Spacey with his turns in Se7en and The Usual Suspects. The actors signed for the film taking pay cuts and creators struggled to get it financed. It was made with a budget of $6 million and was a critical and commercial success. The marketing for the film featured posters with the line 'Who is Keyser Soze?'. Some people have criticized the twist to be disingenuous and as something similar to 'it was all a dream' kind and I don't agree with that. Even if he made some of  it up, there is certainly plenty of truth in what he said based on what the other survivor from the boat says-the 60% burnt Hungarian. The script is genius and the direction exceptional. Towards the end of the film it frames two people as Keyser Soze one after the other in no time based on montage and repeated dialogs. It is some feat from Bryan Singer because the film would have failed if the audience didn't really get what he was trying to say. I have seen it about 7 times I think and it is always interesting, which is proof for the quality of script and acting, despite it relying on mystery/twist. 

Christopher McQuarrie won the academy award for original screenplay and Kevin Spacey for best actor in a supporting role. It is a shame that Singer and McQuarrie didn't go on to make any other film that are even remotely as good as The Usual Suspects. Singer is now more of a studio director and McQuarrie had directed 'Jack Reacher' recently and is currently directing Mission Impossible 5. He also wrote screenplay for Tom Cruise starring 'Edge of Tomorrow' and 'Valkyrie' which was also directed by Bryan Singer. If one were to compare, I would say Christopher McQuarrie is making a better fist of it these days than Singer.

Rating: 5/5