The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled

Day 70.

…was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

The 1995 crime thriller The Usual Suspects is one of the most lauded films of the 90s, by critics and average movie-goers alike. Being a fan of mysteries, especially those of the whodunit variety, I couldn’t wait to see if I would be able to figure out the surprise ending. Unfortunately, one of the disadvantages of this film being so well-known, and released 16 years ago, is that all of my family members have seen the movie. Which means they assumed I had seen it and ruined the ending. I even had the misfortune of watching the infamous last scene (which I think is amazing) before I even knew the title of the film.

Nevertheless, I was thoroughly entertained (how could I not be since they mentioned Skokie, IL) and would recommend that anyone give this film a watch, even if you already know the ending. Since I don’t want to be like my vociferous relatives, this post will be spoiler free.

The Usual Suspect begins with five career criminals being brought in for a lineup after a truck is stolen in New York City. After declaring their innocence, they subsequently form an alliance and decide to get revenge on the police; however, they soon find out that they each owe a debt to the elusive, and almost mythical, criminal Keyser Soze. These men participate in a job which leaves 27 people dead after what appears to be a drug deal gone wrong. Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminter) must rely on Verbal Knit (Kevin Spacey), a cripple con artist who is the only survivor of the original five suspects, to discover what happened that night and find out who Keyser Soze is.

Kevin Spacey is brilliant and seems born to play this role. The little nuances he brings to this character, from his blank expressions to his mindless babble, are remarkable and make his character incredibly believable. The supporting cast, including Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, and Kevin Pollak, also serve up fine acting that elevates their seemingly flat characters.

While I did enjoy this movie, I will admit that being a young person hindered my viewing experience. Many of my peers will find the twist ending not so surprising; I’m pretty sure I would’ve figured out who Keyser Soze was, even without my prior knowledge. However, considering this movie in the context of the 1990s, I understand why it was such a shock. The Usual Suspects was one of the first films to use what has now become a standard in thrillers: the twist ending.

What I like about this film is that there are two twists to the story. While the first, and most talked about, is who Keyser Soze is, I found the second twist to be much more surprising. It was this twist that left me with a lot to think about; a second viewing is definitely in order. The Usual Suspects may appear to be a run of the mill crime movie, but like its twist ending, it is surprisingly much more.

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