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32. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Usual Suspects

August 28, 2018

Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, Kevin Spacey, Suzy Amis, Benicio del Toro, Giancarlo Esposito
Runtime: 106 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1995

 

★★★★☆

 

The breakthrough picture for director Bryan Singer, The Usual Suspects is a heist movie with more on its mind than the goal that it sets itself; a dark, twisted and unique little journey into the lives of its core five characters and their misadventures at the hands of the mysterious Keyser Soze.

 

As the audience, we put our faith in the not so trustworthy hands of Verbal Kint (Spacey). His narration of events unseen to the audience, and the agent (Palminteri) to whose perspective we are aligned, are remarkable metaphors of the manner in which we process storytelling in both the field of cinema and that of the spoken word. We go along with the story because it’s exactly what we want to be fed - and the film knows this - and is accentuated by the intentionally growing and shifting complexity of Christopher McQuarrie’s genuinely excellent labyrinth of a screenplay.

 

This is further confused, in the best way possible, by the work of John Ottman as both musical composer and editor on the film. The compositions of imagery in unusual and disorganised manners, escorted by his distinctive score and sound work build on this convolution in exciting new ways. 

 

The cast of Byrne, Spacey, Baldwin, del Toro and Pollak share a fabulous chemistry with one another that sparkles naturally in-between the line reads. There is a familiar kinship at work here that makes these liars and thugs more relatable than they might deserve to be. Singer’s direction of scenes and the camerawork of Newton Thomas Sigel are all solid components, even though it’s the story that sustains notice.

 

It’s not really experimentation or art house cinema, buts it’s a damn well-constructed maze of a film that – while diminishing the effect of the ending – still maintains its perplexing entertainment value.

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