Week 1 Blog: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Title: The Usual Suspects

Writer:  Christopher McQuarrie

Director: Bryan Singer

Year: 1995

Actors: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Pollack

Story: The story follows a man named “Verbal” Kint (Spacey), a small-time criminal with mild cerebral palsy.  Verbal is one of two survivors from a ship that explodes in a harbor, an event that is shrouded with intrigue. Verbal, along with his four criminal counterparts that he becomes involved with, are all after two things: big money and to appease the thing they all fear the most.

Plot: The movie begins just before the ship explodes in the harbor with a mysterious interaction between Keaton (Byrne) and an unknown man.  Keaton is injured badly and realizes he is covered in fuel when the man points a gun at his head.  After a short exchange, Keaton is shot by the unknown man and then the ship is blown up by him.

The central plot of this story revolves around the ship incident – the investigation by the FBI to find out what happened and the story leading up to the explosion of the five criminals.  Verbal is questioned by by FBI agent Dave Kujan (Palminteri) about the events leading up to the explosion.  As Verbal walks through his story with the detective, the movie switches back and forth from the interview and the events as they unfold.

The five criminals – Verbal, Hockey (Pollack), McManus (Baldwin), Keaton, and Fenster (Del Toro) meet in jail.  They are all suspects for a truckload of gun parts that had been hijacked and are in a line-up together.  They get to know each other in the holding cell while being questioned and then plan a heist together.  The heist takes place and results in further plot development as the five suspects learn that their initial meeting wasn’t by chance.  They learn that they were all picked by a man that everyone feared but nobody knew really existed to perform a job – a job that would pay all that made it through an unbelievable sum of money.  They were also told that not everyone would survive.  The twists and turns the movie takes in a fantastic ride.  In an attempt to prevent spoiling the film, the storyline stops here.

Chronology: The movie is presented non-linearly as the scenes bounce between present time in the interview of Verbal Kint and back to the events as they happened in the past.  The sequencing of the scenes in this manner allows for full character development of all the players, namely Verbal, by going back in time before the event.  The paralleling of the interview sequence with the real story give clues throughout the movie that gives rise to the plot and gets the audience on the edge of their seat waiting for what’s next.  The use of foreshadowing in the beginning of the movie sets the tone for the whole film – that everything isn’t quite what it seems.  Should this film have been presented chronologically the character development and the building intrigue would not have been nearly as successful.  It still would have been an interesting movie, but many of the enhancements for the audience would have been gone.

Excellent movie – top 5 for me all time.  This movie was paramount in the careers of Bryan Singer, Director, and Kevin Spacey, Actor.  Kevin Spacey won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this performance.

References:

Polygram Filmed Entertainment. (1995, Sept 15).  The Usual Suspects Trailer (HD). [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rMUb9GUj9g&x-yt-cl=84411374&x-yt-ts=1421828030#action=share.

Polygram Filmed Entertainment. (1995, Sept 15).  Kobayashi explains it all. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l39Cvj8iUZg

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