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Episode 79: THE USUAL SUSPECTS

  

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  1. 1. Is THE USUAL SUSPECTS worthy of The Canon?

    • Keyser So-yay
      96
    • Keyser No-way
      36


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With X-MEN APOCALYPSE stinking up theaters it's time to look back at where director Bryan Singer got his start: THE USUAL SUSPECTS, a collaboration with his longtime friend Christopher McQuarrie.

 

Is this twisty heist good enough to make The Canon?

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Voting yes. Great episode, listened on the drive this morning. Also Devin's comments w/r/t "burn it down" at the 12:20 mark are spot on.

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This is a film I've seen something like thirty times in my life, mostly as a young teenager. Having spent the last several months watching practically everything I've been able to get my hands on, and having spent a long time away from this in general, I wasn't sure if this was going to hold up. And yeah, there were some things that didn't quite work, but the film is so layered. Re-watching this last night, I had a lot of the same thoughts as Devin and Amy. This film not only works despite the twist, but it works better, because what you're looking for, and what the film is saying, is not only different, but much more complicated. And to see Kevin Spacey's character wanting to laugh in Palminteri's face, and messing with him, is way more interesting. Not only that, but this film is really so balanced and watchable. That has not changed at all. The Usual Suspects is just shy of two hours, but it feels like nothing.

 

This is a 100% yes. This film holds up well. Every part works. There's not much action, but what action there is just puts you on the edge of your seat. The script is more captivating the more you dig into it. The ensemble is amazing. As an experience, it's as potent as ever Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

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I have to agree that this film still holds up on re-watch. The latter make it fun to watch, as you discover something new. I'll actually have to check it out from the Pete Postlethwaite as Keyser Soze angle. And yeah, I think that besides this, and Apt Pupil, Singer's other films don't hold up.

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When I queued up the latest episode of the Canon this morning, I was excited to hear Devin and Amy tear The Usual Suspects to pieces; the twist here blew my mind, because it turns out that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Devin and Amy that this movie was good.

 

First things first: the plot is fine, and, yes, Kevin Spacey is good, but that’s all I can offer. The film itself is bad.

 

At one point in the episode, Devin makes a positive argument for the “misdirection” of the question “Is Keaton dead?” but then Devin points out that we see, objectively, at the beginning of the film that Keaton is, in fact, dead. That opening scene makes the aforementioned “misdirection” ineffectual, essentially letting us off the hook for caring about that whole line of questioning. And this is only the first of Singer’s massive errors in the construction of this film. The second is actually the execution of the twist (praised for its nature above, but that’s a different idea). By saving the twist until the very end, by “misdirecting” his audience throughout the film (a.k.a. not telling his audience anything), Singer essentially ends his film with “It was all a dream,” one of the worst ways to end anything. Granted, this is an expensive version of that trope, rather than a “cheap” one, and I think there is some groundwork laid, but we as an audience are still essentially taken for a ride. (I think I’d have less of an issue with this if Singer allowed his audience the chance to observe the office billboard a little bit longer, a little bit more thoroughly. This would not be to allow the audience to figure it out, but at least to allow the twist to land a little harder, with more of an “Ohhh” rather than a “What?”)

 

Secondly, how do both Devin and Amy end up praising the camerawork and cinematography throughout the episode? There are *some* smart decisions made, but there are so many scenes abysmally lit (something Devin usually jumps on, but here, nothing) and full of empty, useless space. Take, for example, the scene where Verbal goes to Keaton’s apartment to try and talk him into the Taxi Job. The scene starts with the camera in extreme close-up on our two characters’ faces and a beige wall, and the camera does not move for what feels like an interminable amount of time. We aren’t given any information to place these characters, and we are given almost nothing to look at except two men talking to each other in slightly breathless voices; both characters are far too composed for us to get any real sense of heat or emotion out of their argument. Then we cut back to see Keaton’s full apartment, which has some really interesting furniture and art on the walls and plenty of little places for Verbal and Keaton to conduct their business. Instead, the two of them stand to the right of the frame against more beige walls, leaving three quarters of the room empty - save for all the things I *wish* they were standing in front of. There are many similar scenes where the camera is placed at odd points in the room, seemingly in service of nothing, and then just stays there; where the frame is composed in such a way as to leave the viewer with no focal point - and not in service of “misdirection”; or where the film’s gaze inexplicably turns away from interesting set pieces and action to show us something mundane and information-less.

 

Finally - and only because I’m realizing how long this post will be - so much of the acting is atrocious. Postlethwaite’s inexplicable Asian accent cannot be excused by some possible theory that he is Söze. As much as I like that theory, there simply isn’t enough evidence for it, and too much in favor of Kevin Spacey (the artist’s sketch alone is evidence enough: it has Spacey’s widow’s peak and chin dimple). Similarly, I also like the story behind Benecio del Toro’s overblown performance, but it reads more as a protest against a ridiculous script than an inspired choice. It’s del Toro saying “Fuck it, just pay me,” not “creating an interesting character.” Third, Gabriel Byrne’s dead-eyed performance does not allow me to become emotionally invested in his character whatsoever, and the script desperately needs me to do that. Like Detective Kujan, I don’t believe Keaton loves that woman, either. Finally, the way this film is shot and the way the script is written (don’t get me started on the rest of that), it’s safe to say that Steven Baldwin’s character is supposed to be competent, but his antsy, machismo-inflected performance make the character impotent, impossible to take seriously. I just want to laugh him out of the film, and, as a result (and on top of the other bad performances), I cannot care about this little team’s hijinks and therefore cannot care about the plot and therefore cannot care about the twist. Essentially, for me, Baldwin ruins the entire film.

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Yes for me.

 

Racking my brain trying to think of the greatest movie plot twists. Tried to think of the most recent film whose twist will become part of the cultural lexicon (Gone Girl maybe?), but sadly people talk about movies in a different way with the rise of social media. Do films even have plot twists anymore or do they only have spoilers?

 

To add to Amy's thoughts on Tom Cruise: he's not chasing an Oscar so I doubt will see him do work with people like Paul Thomas Anderson again anytime soon. He seems happy enough with sci-fi action one-offs like Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow as well as the Mission Impossible movies. As a side note, I'm not sure if DiCaprio did Django Unchained because he was genuinely interested in Tarantino's work or if he just wanted to get closer to awards glory.

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@thejar, I'm sorry, but I think you're wrong about the scene in Keaton's apartment. It's about, how Devin and Amy mentioned, Verbal getting what he wants. The scene begins with Keaton in control, suppressing Verbal against a wall. Then Verbal gains the upper hand. What we see is Keaton freeing Verbal, and opening of to him, letting him into very specifically designed apartment. It's so much his taste, which is all that matters: That it's his. In the wide shot, we see Keaton give up his position, and Verbal casually places himself into Keaton's home, almost wherever, but not in a way that's too obvious. Meanwhile, Keaton is pushed to the side, against the wall. He's not even the center of his own personal space. Without totally realizing it, he willingly has allowed Verbal to take the reigns, by allowing Verbal to be more comfortable in Keaton's home than Keaton is. Within the visual text, Verbal's more comfortable and in his right place than Keaton is. That's why that scene is BRILLIANT.

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Easily a yes.

 

I'd like to add that they actually made the movie from Adaptation, it's called Thr3e and it's abysmal. No horse and motorcycle chase though.

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This film didn't hold up for me at all on rewatch- I don't find Singer's directing to be that inspired even here. It's the best thing he's ever done and it's still just "fine." It's a perfectly okay thriller from a time filled to the brim with thrillers like it. I cannot conceive of calling this "great" in anyway when it just reads so average to me-something a group of dudes in a Buffalo Wild Wings would gush over, in between talking about their favorite film "The Shawshank Redemption." Definitely not a bad film but in no way one that belongs in a film canon.

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Even though I haven't watched it in about 10 years, it's easily the film I've watched the most. I watched every DVD bonus feature and loved every minute of it (the only pop culture reference in the movie is "the reporter from the Incredible Hulk", probably one of the reasons that it doesn't feel that dated).

 

I'll definitely have to revisit but it had enough impact on me that I really can't see how I could say no.

 

Also I have to say that Empire of the Sun is not Canon worthy, don't waste an episode on it.

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When I queued up the latest episode of the Canon this morning, I was excited to hear Devin and Amy tear The Usual Suspects to pieces; the twist here blew my mind, because it turns out that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Devin and Amy that this movie was good.

 

First things first: the plot is fine, and, yes, Kevin Spacey is good, but that’s all I can offer. The film itself is bad.

 

At one point in the episode, Devin makes a positive argument for the “misdirection” of the question “Is Keaton dead?” but then Devin points out that we see, objectively, at the beginning of the film that Keaton is, in fact, dead. That opening scene makes the aforementioned “misdirection” ineffectual, essentially letting us off the hook for caring about that whole line of questioning. And this is only the first of Singer’s massive errors in the construction of this film. The second is actually the execution of the twist (praised for its nature above, but that’s a different idea). By saving the twist until the very end, by “misdirecting” his audience throughout the film (a.k.a. not telling his audience anything), Singer essentially ends his film with “It was all a dream,” one of the worst ways to end anything. Granted, this is an expensive version of that trope, rather than a “cheap” one, and I think there is some groundwork laid, but we as an audience are still essentially taken for a ride. (I think I’d have less of an issue with this if Singer allowed his audience the chance to observe the office billboard a little bit longer, a little bit more thoroughly. This would not be to allow the audience to figure it out, but at least to allow the twist to land a little harder, with more of an “Ohhh” rather than a “What?”)

 

Secondly, how do both Devin and Amy end up praising the camerawork and cinematography throughout the episode? There are *some* smart decisions made, but there are so many scenes abysmally lit (something Devin usually jumps on, but here, nothing) and full of empty, useless space. Take, for example, the scene where Verbal goes to Keaton’s apartment to try and talk him into the Taxi Job. The scene starts with the camera in extreme close-up on our two characters’ faces and a beige wall, and the camera does not move for what feels like an interminable amount of time. We aren’t given any information to place these characters, and we are given almost nothing to look at except two men talking to each other in slightly breathless voices; both characters are far too composed for us to get any real sense of heat or emotion out of their argument. Then we cut back to see Keaton’s full apartment, which has some really interesting furniture and art on the walls and plenty of little places for Verbal and Keaton to conduct their business. Instead, the two of them stand to the right of the frame against more beige walls, leaving three quarters of the room empty - save for all the things I *wish* they were standing in front of. There are many similar scenes where the camera is placed at odd points in the room, seemingly in service of nothing, and then just stays there; where the frame is composed in such a way as to leave the viewer with no focal point - and not in service of “misdirection”; or where the film’s gaze inexplicably turns away from interesting set pieces and action to show us something mundane and information-less.

 

Finally - and only because I’m realizing how long this post will be - so much of the acting is atrocious. Postlethwaite’s inexplicable Asian accent cannot be excused by some possible theory that he is Söze. As much as I like that theory, there simply isn’t enough evidence for it, and too much in favor of Kevin Spacey (the artist’s sketch alone is evidence enough: it has Spacey’s widow’s peak and chin dimple). Similarly, I also like the story behind Benecio del Toro’s overblown performance, but it reads more as a protest against a ridiculous script than an inspired choice. It’s del Toro saying “Fuck it, just pay me,” not “creating an interesting character.” Third, Gabriel Byrne’s dead-eyed performance does not allow me to become emotionally invested in his character whatsoever, and the script desperately needs me to do that. Like Detective Kujan, I don’t believe Keaton loves that woman, either. Finally, the way this film is shot and the way the script is written (don’t get me started on the rest of that), it’s safe to say that Steven Baldwin’s character is supposed to be competent, but his antsy, machismo-inflected performance make the character impotent, impossible to take seriously. I just want to laugh him out of the film, and, as a result (and on top of the other bad performances), I cannot care about this little team’s hijinks and therefore cannot care about the plot and therefore cannot care about the twist. Essentially, for me, Baldwin ruins the entire film.

 

This is the most convoluted way possible to tell us you don't like Stephen Baldwin.

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easy no,

 

cf. repost from last thread

 

I didn't know the twist the first time I saw it, but I did know there was a twist - unsurprisingly the film was recc'd to me on that grounds alone. "the twist man, it'll blow your miiiiiiiiiind" I recall at the time being absolutely bored with the film and thinking I'd already figured the twist out in its last act only to be totally caught off guard with the ending.

 

I'll admit there was a short period of some kinda masochistic admiration for the filmmakers' willingness to so blatantly FUCK their audience like that, I'd been played by the duke and king. but the thing is, yeah, the twist ending is cheap, to my mind it doesn't play off what came before any more than "it was all a dream" endings do. it sets up one film with its own tensions and narrative and cuts it short for another- BUT I can look past cheap tiwst if it caps off a great film, your example Les Diaboliques is perfect. I don't like the ending to that film, but it is a masterpiece of suspense, and even knowing the twist you can get into the characters' head just as easily and understand the film's narrative tensions and enjoy the ride. well written drama never wears thin, watch Star Wars a hundred times and you will (I will, anyway) still be worrying that Luke doesn't make the trench run.

 

The Usual Suspects' problems is that sans-twist it isn't good anything. The narrative is so goofy and the characters are so empty it is impossible (for me) to care about anything that's going on as you watch the film flip thru dry police procedural, Michael Mann lite, and The Most Dangerous Game before coming to the agonizing finale of confused dudes running around a boat while you wait to be told who the guy in the shadows is, BLEGH

 

 

ps: where can i see mike's animation?

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I honestly hate this film. It was maddening listen to this podcast and hearing two otherwise intelligent people claim the film's biggest weakness is a strength. The twist renders it all meaningless. You can't have a film told ENTIRELY from POV if unreliable narrator and have the twist be that the unreliable narrator was lying! That is cheap, stupid and leaves rest of film uttering unworthy of any further analysis because who-gives-a-shit. And without the twist (admittedly a cool moment)? It's just a boring crime thriller. This movie sucks, full stop, and is a hard and obvious NO for the canon.

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So the first time I saw this movie I knew the twist before it was revealed. But when I finished watching the movie I had forgotten about it and was so enthralled in the story telling that I was still shocked when the twist is revealed. This may be one of the best written films of the last 20 years and possibly ever. Singer's direction is excellent and the cast is really awesome (though on the recent rewatch I could not remember who was who aside from Spacey and Del Toro), this is a definitive yes for me.

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@thejar, I'm sorry, but I think you're wrong about the scene in Keaton's apartment. It's about, how Devin and Amy mentioned, Verbal getting what he wants. The scene begins with Keaton in control, suppressing Verbal against a wall. Then Verbal gains the upper hand. What we see is Keaton freeing Verbal, and opening of to him, letting him into very specifically designed apartment. It's so much his taste, which is all that matters: That it's his. In the wide shot, we see Keaton give up his position, and Verbal casually places himself into Keaton's home, almost wherever, but not in a way that's too obvious. Meanwhile, Keaton is pushed to the side, against the wall. He's not even the center of his own personal space. Without totally realizing it, he willingly has allowed Verbal to take the reigns, by allowing Verbal to be more comfortable in Keaton's home than Keaton is. Within the visual text, Verbal's more comfortable and in his right place than Keaton is. That's why that scene is BRILLIANT.

 

It's an interesting read of the scene, and I won't argue that Singer moves his actors in an interesting way, but I can't defend the composition of the shot, with the two of them off to one side and all this clutter taking up most of the frame. There's a lot to learn about Keaton in that apartment, but we're forced to focus on the action of the scene, which is in the least interesting part of the room.

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I like Singer a lot more than many folks at BMD and think this is probably his best film. But this seems like a good example of a movie which is good, but not canonical (his X-Men may be more canonical, if not as good). If you never see this movie, you're missing out on a good movie, but that's it. There's nothing essential about it. The twist is well known, but the same is true of The Crying Game (which perhaps, like me, nobody bothers to see once they've heard) or Citizen Kane (which is canonical for other reasons). The Sixth Sense actually might be canonical due to the twist, and it became something expected from Shyamalan in every subsequent movie, but there's little lasting impact from this.

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Man, I seem to have had an opposite reaction to a lot of people on the board. I had seen it once before in high school, and looking back it may be one of those movies I went into with a bad attitude. I went in the first time knowing the twist, and knowing the people who liked it among my friends were the kinds that repeated the "Oswalt was a fag" line in their daily lives. So with a contrarian attitude, and a disdain for twists, I think I went into this ready to dislike it back then. I succeeded.

 

Rewatching it yesterday, I was completely sucked in from start to finish. The things that may have seemed "too-90s-teen-pleasing" felt right in the moment, and the camerawork, score, pacing, script, and performances all sang. I read that they had to secure Chazz Palminteri to have enough star power for investors to go for it. That seems insane looking at the cast list in 2016 (and no disrespect to Palminteri, who's fantastic in this).

 

Amy and Devin really said it all for me this time, and the commenters seem to largely split on whether this rises above being a touchstone for lame immature guys or not, which i totally get. I felt the same way about Reservoir Dogs, but I saw a lot of exceptional stuff rewatching this.

 

One thing I want to highlight is the twist. I used to be on the anti-Shyamalan bandwagon, and that fed into me having an irrational twist hatred for a long time. But to cut to the chase, I think a twist is great if it makes the film more interesting, and terrible when it makes the film less interesting. Plenty of times a twist will feel contrived and trivialize everything that came before it (I'm looking at you, Shutter Island). When a movie's juice ends with the big reveal, there's an issue.

 

The Usual Suspects is a prime example of a twist making a movie way more interesting. Twists of the "unreliable narrator" variety often just make everything that came before it feel like just a waste of time before the author decided to clue us in on the banal truth. But The Usual Suspects doesn't just set it up in the front-end with a couple of clues. The story is spun in a format that lets the audience really savor every detail retroactively with a new mystery. It's not a cheap twist, it's a revealing of deep narrative depth.

 

Which isn't to say that The Usual Suspects is the deepest film ever made, but it is a clever, original, and exceptionally crafted crime thriller. The kind of lower "g" great that belongs in the Canon for sure.

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1464630948[/url]' post='210526'] By saving the twist until the very end, by “misdirecting” his audience throughout the film (a.k.a. not telling his audience anything), Singer essentially ends his film with “It was all a dream,” one of the worst ways to end anything.

 

I completely agree with this, and this is the biggest reason why it's a no for movie. 90% of the movie as we see it didn't "happen", and I'm sorry, watching a dude make up stuff on the fly from information the audience is not privy to is both a bullshit "twist" but also bad mystery storytelling. If a "twist" relies on withholding information from the audience, then it's bad storytelling.

 

Also (I haven't listened to the episode yet so I'm willing to stay open-minded), but this movie hasn't really contributed anything to the culture. I bet most people couldn't name anything from this movie save for the line-up scene and the "twist" at the end. Movies have had twists before this and have had twists since; nothing about cinema has changed as a result of this movie's existence, and the rest of the film is not good enough to justify the Canon.

 

So yeah, The Usual Suspects is a hard no. It's not even close.

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Singer essentially ends his film with “It was all a dream,” one of the worst ways to end anything. Granted, this is an expensive version of that trope, rather than a “cheap” one, and I think there is some groundwork laid, but we as an audience are still essentially taken for a ride.

I pretty much cosign this. The details Amy and Devin remarked on being rewarding for repeat viewing hold no weight because it's all just an in-universe lie -- which is fine, cinema is all about clever fictions, but the reveal in Usual Suspects invalidates nearly everything the viewer has seen. In me, it just invokes a response of "okay, so who cares then", especially since the film has nothing else interesting of note beyond the narrative; it's not technically engaging or particularly well crafted. The whole thing feels, to me, like "it's just a prank, bro".

 

The other observation is that Bryan Singer's subsequent career didn't produce another film noteworthy of anything but its commercial prospects, which makes for an interesting contrast with John Singleton. Boyz N The Hood and The Usual Suspects are both flawed films and not technical marvels, so you're left with their respective legacies -- which I think is telling. Singleton's debut is remembered as a touchstone of black cinema, while The Usual Suspects is now reduced to a pop culture reference, the equivalent of a humorous gif.

 

c00razf.gif

 

And the character of Kobayashi is still mildly offensive and stupid, at best.

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The twist renders it all meaningless. You can't have a film told ENTIRELY from POV if unreliable narrator and have the twist be that the unreliable narrator was lying!

 

One way i've reconciled this is that we are seeing the story play out from both the narrators falsified perspective and what is arguably the "true events." It's left up to the viewer to discern what is actually true and what is false and that is part of the fun of the story. It weaves in and out of both narratives but I don't think it's intention is to say that everything is a lie.

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One way i've reconciled this is that we are seeing the story play out from both the narrators falsified perspective and what is arguably the "true events." It's left up to the viewer to discern what is actually true and what is false and that is part of the fun of the story.

To me, that is not "fun", it is lazy filmmaking. There is nothing in the film that suggests this sort of choose-your-own-adventure interpretation, either. Narrative "facts" are either true or not in a story, and having a vague miasma of possible truths is even worse than saying "it was all a dream".

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Man I couldn't agree less with people who say the twist renders the film's events meaningless. Many films make that mistake, but this film avoids it in several ways. Party Pizza, thejlar, Chuck, and devilmaydance: I don't mean this post with any venom or heat. I mean is as a discussion and not an argument. But I think your dismissals of this movie are totally unfair.

 

First, the film sets up an "outside the lie" bubble. The post-climax events are all delivered as inherent fact. There are pieces to grab onto and try to place together. Edie Finneran was executed. The Hungarians knew about Keyser Soze and identified Verbal. There was political pressure from on high to protect Verbal. There was no coke, but there was an Argentinian mole aboard. And ultimately there was some byzantine criminal plot for Verbal or Pete Postlethwaite or someone to gain from. These and other events are not thrown in doubt by the twist. It's a firm anchor in reality to contrast against the lies.

 

Secondly, most of the events Verbal speaks on are directly corroborated by the police. The lineup happened. Edie was in the lawyer's office. The NYPD Taxi ring bust happened, as did the jewel heist. I may be wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure they said that Fenster was found dead where Verbal said. There are tons of anchors of truth in this film; as broad as you can imagine Verbal's lies to be, the fundamental procedural plot of the film happened as described.

 

Thirdly, and this is getting into subjective territory, but the "dream" is a con. It's a sophisticated lie directed at another character within the film. It serves the same function as other unrealiable narrator-style twists, but it provides a way richer context. I cited Shutter Island in my first post, and often do for examples of bad twists, to contrast a good twist from a bad one. In Shutter Island you watch 90+ minutes of film, maybe more, only to find out that entire chunks of the film are complete fabrications. DiCaprio's character is shown to be doing some things in the twist's reveal that don't remotely correspond to what the camera showed us. It surpasses riffing on the details or characters, it's just the impression that the camera could've shown us any goddamn thing - cartoons maybe - for the majority of the film, for the big twist to be that those cartoons had no bearing on this world's plot or characters. The twist is "your-name-is-actually-an-anagram-of-someone-else's-name" level stupid. The movie's twist is that nothing actually happened in the movie, until after the twist where they try to shoehorn in a dumb tragic ambiguity. There are almost no anchors to the plot.

 

It sounds like The Usual Suspects felt like that to some of you. But the difference is that Suspect's lies are specific, compartmentalized, and functional; they aren't (totally) some director jerking off on film for a while just for him to announce later that he just made you watch jerk-off footage. It's a lie, from a character to another character and the audience, to achieve his in-plot grifting goal. It doesn't reject examination of the film's text, it invites it. It at least interrogates it. The film goes out of its way to ensure that "large swaths" of the film aren't rendered entirely bullshit by sprinkling small truths throughout. The largest chunks of the film that could be entirely fabricated would be the counterattack on Kobayashi and Verbal's interactions with Keaton. Even removing all of that doesn't throw the film into the "lazy storytelling" realm of the cheap dream twist.

 

And the body of the film isn't anchored just in plot, but the film, more subjectively, roots the lies in the truth of the characters. There's little direct corroboration, but I believe the film means to communicate that the supporting characters of the film were as described by Kint, with the exception of himself, Kobayahsi, and the possible exception of Keaton. Verbal could easily have misrepresented Keaton just to fuck with Kujan. But either way I believe the film anchors the film in genuine characterizations as well as many concrete plot facts.

 

When Verbal told Kujan that McManus said "Oswalt was a fag" over the comms, was he lying? Maybe he wasn't, and that was a truth among the lies. An expression of McManus. Maybe he was, and Verbal just made up something that McManus would say. Or maybe what McManus did wasn't part of the lie at all. Perhaps only the audience saw it, and that element was Singer presenting the scene outside of Verbal's lie. To me that's interesting; but the bottom line is that a movie with a cheap narrative twist couldn't support that question. You can ask the little questions about the plot because the movie anchors its narrative with truthful elements; you're invited to find the truths and speculate about how frequent and thorough the lies are in between.

 

Look, part of this is subjective. I'm not arguing against people having a negative reaction to the film. But I do reject the blanket criticisms of the twist as cheap.

 

It wasn't "all a dream". Some of it was a con, and that's a meaningful distinction in the film's favor.

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Very soft yes. As mentioned in the homework forum, I agree with Amy and Devin that the script is tight and the characters are fun to watch since the performances are throughout good-to-great. Honestly, I don't care about that plot twist too much. I think, there are better plot twists in movies throughout history, be it Caligari or The Sixth Sense. I think here the twist a nice icing on top of the cake, however, it doesn't transform the cake in a meaningful way. It's fun, but doesn't add or subtract much from the performances and the script.

 

Where I deviate from you guys is in Bryan Singer's work. I find most of the staging choices you've mentioned in the discussion a bit obvious, and on the nose. I'd say especially the scenes in which the cops discuss their further steps are staged pretty boringly and soak a lot of the energy out of the film. Also, Verbal Kint just sitting in that chair doesn't seem like the genius decision you argue it is to me, more of static and boring. To illustrate my point, here's a video-analysis of a simple exposition-scene from Vertigo:

 

You couldn't make such a deep analysis of any of the scenes in Usual Suspects. That doesn't mean that every thriller needs to be a Hitchcock, but at least put some effort and originality into your fim, if 60 pecent of all scenes in your film are "one guy explaining stuff to another guy". Watching this always makes me kind of sad of the film that could've been the Ususal Suspects, because the potential is clearly there.

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