Saturday, May 26, 2012

Scene Stealer: The Usual Suspects

Who is Keyser Söze?” The answer to this question is revealed in the film’s final scene and it’s quite a shocker.  The film is an intricate exercise in gamesmanship with a plot that weaves a bewildering tale about five suspects in a police lineup who conspire together to pull off a drug heist.  Their common bond is that they all fear a man they’ve never met – Keyser Söze.  The film’s trickiest role is executed with smooth and supreme slyness and the filmmakers provide a great many noticeable hints if you realize which suspect bears the most scrutiny.   Look closely at everything and listen, too, and you might just unravel the mystery, but I think the film is intended to be seen twice, for during the second time around the head-scratching moments become clear and the subtle nuances become apparent.  


"It's all there, I'm telling it straight, I swear,” utters Verbal Kint and neither Dave Kujan who’s interrogating him, nor we as the audience realize how literally he means it.  The film builds up to a startling revelation that shifts all that has come before into sharp focus.  The events are told in flashback narrated by Verbal who is promised total immunity provided he tells Kujan everything he knows about the group of unusual and notorious suspects.   The conversational sparring between Verbal and Kujan is thoroughly engrossing and the way the film’s secrets are held together by the sharp and clever dialogue until the very end makes for one helluva humdinger.  

When the storytelling is done, Verbal leaves the station and Kujan sits there on the edge of his desk with a satisfied smile on his face until he pays close attention to the numerous clippings on the bulletin board in front of him.  When Kujan discovers that Verbal's story was an improvised concoction that he made up on the spot by stringing together details culled from items on the bulletin board and other things in the room, he begins to recall the details of Verbal's story. 

As his eyes flit from one clipping to the next and as he sees details of Verbal's story in the items around him, a horrified look of realization comes over him and he begins to piece the puzzle together.  He drops his cup of coffee and the mug shatters onto the floor.  There on the bottom shard of the broken mug is another tidbit from Verbal's fake story - Kobayashi.  Meanwhile, Verbal walks out of the police station slowly and laboriously as he's done throughout the film until, suddenly, he shakes off the club footedness that's plagued him.  As we bear witness to this unexpected ruse, the interrogation is heard over the action, reminding us of Kujan's demands for the truth and Verbal's impeccably well-played deception.  "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.  And like that, poof.  He's gone."
  

8 comments:

  1. Truly one of my favorite scenes in the history of cinema. The way the leg slowly shifts, compounded by tense music and a revelation taking place two minutes too late.

    Great selection JBT.

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    1. Thanks, Sam. It's a stand-out scene in a great film and it was so well executed!

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  2. The impact of this film is considerably less on me because I managed to figure out the "twist" very early on. I much prefer Kevin Spacey's villainous performance as John Doe in "Se7en".

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    1. Good on you for figuring it out before the reveal. Kevin Spacey was great as John Doe in "Se7en." The final scene in that film with the box is so disturbing and startling - it's definitely a scene stealer that I will never forget!

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  3. It's a great scene and a great performance from Kevin Spacey. I actually saw the ending to this movie long before I actually watched the film - it was airing on some cable channel right before whatever it was I'd tuned in for - and even knowing the ending did not spoil the film at all.

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    1. That's definitely an interesting way to experience the film. I can understand how knowing the ending didn't spoil it. I feel the same way upon repeat viewings of the movie - it's still a great watch even though I know what's coming.

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  4. This is one of my fave endings too. Is the best twist ever - it could be! I think Spacey has stolen quite a few films - he's absolutely brilliant in Glengarry Glen Ross and Seven and so many films. When he has a small role it seems to bring out the best in him.

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    1. It would definitely make the list of best film twists ever!

      Spacey has given some great performances. I haven't seen Glengarry Glen Ross in so long that I had forgotten he was in it. I'll have to give that film a re-watch soon. I agree that he was a great villain in 'Seven' and I thought he was fantastic in 'American Beauty' too.

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