With all the fast past and explosive action movies that bring in tones of money all the time these days, it’s so refreshing to get a smart, tightly scripted, thinkers movie that’s heavy on dialog and stands as an interesting character study but feels just as exciting and engaging as any big action flick. The 1995 motion picture titled “The Usual Suspects” is one such film that takes the ingredients of a good heist movie and presents it in a way that’s so creative and interesting that it stands as a benchmark in the mystery and thriller genera.
The plot goes like this, five criminals are pulled in by the cops for a line up. Their names are McManus (played by Stephen Baldwin), Keaton (played by Gabriel Byrne), Fenster (played by Benicio Del Toro), Hockney (played by Kevin Pollak) and the most memorable of all is Verbal (played by Kevin Spacey). Shortly after being released, it becomes apparent that they were all drawn together for a reason. The five are soon approached by a man representing a mysterious criminal mastermind named Keyser Soze, a widely-feared and sinister man. Apparently this mysterious gangster wants our five criminals to raid a ship containing a drug shipment, kill everyone on-board and collect a large sum of cash.
The brilliance of this movie is that it’s told primarily through flashbacks and voice over’s. Verbal, the fifth member of these suspected criminals is being interrogated by the police and the chain of events gradually unfolds before us. The mystery deepens, the tension builds higher and higher, leading to a thrilling climax and resolving in one of the best twist endings ever. A revelation that’s so unexpected yet so obvious all at the same time, you’ll be kicking yourself in the head for not expecting it. Even if you do see this twist coming, it’s still very effective, especially when we see how all the dots actually connect and the final line spoken in this movie is so tense and fitting that it leaves me with chills every time.
Everything about this movie is just done so well. Directer Bryan Singer (who's best known for directing the first two "X-Men" movies) and screen writer Christopher McQuarrie were the two perfect artists to bring this movie to life. The performances are all top notch, portraying their varied characters with lots of personality and even a little sympathy. Of cores the star who completely steels the show is Kevin Spacey in the role of Verbal and even won an academy award for best supporting actor thanks to this performance. The faceless villain, Keyser Soze is also very memorable, his back story is just so cryptic and the philosophy behind him is even more intriguing, but it shows truth that sometimes you don’t know your enemy until he disappears before your eyes.
I know this isn’t as much of a movie review as it is a recommendation but there’s really no proper way to do this film justice. It’s just a very unique and well constructed mystery thriller that just gets more and more admirable with age. Also, for anyone who’s desensitized by big, spectacle driven action flicks, I highly recommend taking a break and giving this film a chance because it proves how exciting versatile characters and solid writing can really be. I give “The Usual Suspects” 4 stars.