Last week, I was lucky enough to witness the 1995 classic ‘The Usual Suspects’ on the big screen and in all its glory, courtesy of Manchester Printwork’s Odeon cinema and after the 106 Academy Award winning minutes, I left the cinema reeling in awe of how much better it was than my DVD copy at home.
Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Directed by Bryan Singer, The Usual Suspects has become one of the most loved films of the last three decades, being voted as one of the top 30 films of all time on IMDb and although it was Singer’s first film, it’s not hard to see why ‘the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist’ is now one of the most referenced pop culture quotes since it was released.
I put the success and popularity of the film down to two things;
- The cast: Kevin Spacey (who won an oscar for his performance) is the unreliable narrator and comes across as being a character from a Billy Wilder film noir. Supported by Gabriel Byrne, Pete Postlethwaite, Benicio Del Toro and Stephen Baldwin (the two crowd favourites). This cast is phenomenally good (two Oscar winners, Steven Spielberg’s favourite actor and star of ‘Shark in Venice’) and all of the actors took less than their normal fee to accommodate for the tiny $6million budget.
- Ad-libbing: One of the most recognised scenes within The Usual Suspects is the line up in which our anti-heroes meet for the first time. This scene was written to be completely serious but instead is the funniest in the entire film, mainly down to Benicio Del Toro and Stephen Baldwin, Del Toro’s reaction to ‘In English please’ being genuine and Baldwin’s phrase reading breaking everyone down after a long day of shooting. If this scene had been completely serious, the film would have been a whole lot different. With no humour, I don’t think that the film would be as popular as it is now…
Obviously there are more than two reasons as to why The Usual Suspects is so highly revered but I see it mainly as being because of those two because without Spacey, Byrne, Del Toro, Baldwin and their own input into the script, it would have been a far more serious thriller and wouldn’t leave the viewer wanting to root for any of the characters. Which, is very important to boost ticket sales (hence why Ironman/Tony Stark is so goddamn lovable…).
Beware; Here be spoilers.
The best part of The Usual Suspects for me personally is when the twist unravels, when Detective Cujan looks up at the board in his friends office and see’s Kevin Spacey’s stories in front of him, from the Quartet in Illinois, to picking fresh coffee in Guatemala and finally to the lawyers name ‘Kobayashi’ on the bottom of his own cup. This scene has been voted ‘Best twist of all time’ beating the Sixth Sense and Fight Club in Empire magazine and it’s certainly a hard ending to beat. What makes it so fantastic is the timing, the fact that when Keyser Soze leaves the station, the sketch of him comes in and without seeing it, Cujan knows, he knows that he just let the biggest criminal in America up and leave without telling him anything solid. ‘And like that, (poof) he was gone’.
Had this been a DVD review, I would have to give it 9/10 but due to the fact that this was at the cinema and was seen in the way that it was intended, I have to give it 10, it would be professional negligence not to…