No 61 - The Usual Suspects
Director - Bryan Singer.
In my opinion, this is a film that lives for the grand reveal. I have seen it a few times, and call me the cultural heathen but I've found that it lessens with repeat watching. The real strength of this film is the way that it tells an intricate tale of robberies before flooring the viewer with an almighty twist. Usually, I don't feel bad discussing the film's ending etc, however in this context, the ending is the best bit of the film - so I will warn you before I talk about it. In case you've never seen it.
The film itself is made up of two sections.
Firstly, after a massive explosion on a boat, Verbal Kint is waiting in a police station, being 'informally questioned' by the police. The film then flashes back to the story of the series of events leading up to the final explosion on the boat.
I have nothing against the interrogation scenes, they are tense, they are usually angry and Kevin Spacey's depiction of Verbal is superb. For most of the time he is almost monotone, a bored criminal reluctantly giving out information to a cop who wants even more details.
The few time he shows emotion, it is so underplayed, so subtle. Spacey's acting is constantly understated... which is what makes the melodrama of the flashbacks so strange.
My main concern with the story being told by Verbal is that a lot of it fails to make logistical sense...
After all, Verbal is able to explain things that are happening when he is hiding or not in the scene... he also admits to the police that he shot a drug dealer in the head. If this is a genuine discussion of what is going on then there appear to be some serious flaws.
However, the story is told and, the thing is, there have been hundreds of gangster films or films about heists gone wrong. This film is about a group of 5 villains who get collected by the police and put into a prison line up (in another university wall adorning iconic poster), when banged up together they decide to go on a robbery which has dangerous repercussions. Whilst is interesting seeing this bunch of reprobates get caught up in more and more extreme jobs as they get entangled with the mysterious Keyser Söze, the story is not really that compelling and the acting isn't all that strong. It is a case of - group go on a job, something goes wrong, group are persuaded to go on another job. Leading up to a big drug deal (or is it....) on the aforementioned boat.
This is a film that hinges entirely on the question - Who is Keyser Söze? Being both the question which moves the film on but also the question which redeems the film. For as the question is explored, out come the clever and interesting aspects of the film.
Keyser Söze is an enigma, he is spoken about in hush tones and is given near mythical status by the criminals throughout. What I love is that in the flashback, the fictional depiction of Keyser making him look like an epic figure shrouded in mystery and flame.... or El Mariachi.
The mystery of Keyser, and the strange company he keeps is the film's most interesting strength. My final point before I go into SPOILER territory is a quick question about Mr Kobayashi.... He is described as a Limey, making him English - but his accent is bonkers, partly Indian or maybe Middle Eastern. Where is he meant to be from?!
So... Now... SPOILERS - DON'T READ ON IF YOU'VE NOT WATCHED IT!!!
Whilst the film may be a bit pedestrian the moment of reveal when we discover that everything is fake.... that is cinematic genius. All of a sudden you can talk about why the story feels cliched or convoluted - it is being made up, on the spot. The use of cliche and easy set ups makes complete sense once that is all taken into account.
The race is beautiful as Kint leaves the police station, gradually losing his disability as he walks down the street, the way that it is inter cut with flashes of the office showing where Kint got his inspiration. It is both an iconic moment of cinema but also a truly fabulous piece of writing. The ending all that makes up for the plodding middle of the film (though I still wouldn't rate the film so highly).
What I also love is that, even after the film ends... you could still argue that the question is never really answered.
Just who is Keyser Söze?