Film: The Usual Suspects

Please note that this assignment is due on Wednesday, May 14 at 23.59

Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects combines the suspense formula, criminal story, and twisted plot with an unusual narrator/storyteller played by Kevin Spacey. In this case, our default focus on the triangulation of a story (plot-setting-characterization) MUST be included in your comment. The following is the list of points you may choose to discuss. You may also pick one specific point not featured in the list as long as it has something to do with the film/story.

Characters: Keyser Soze, Verbal Kint, Dean Keaton, Dave Kujan, Kobayashi

Plot/storytelling: criminal story, suspense, flashback, narration on narration, police story, investigation, interrogation, references (use one specific scene)

Techniques: shot, cut, scene, sequence, wide angle, medium close-up, close-up, point-of-view, color, (use one specific scene and tell how it is used and what the effect)

Remember (just in case you’ve forgotten how to comment) to pay attention only to the story (how it is told) and basic cinematic techniques (how they are used) we have discussed in the class.






167 thoughts on “Film: The Usual Suspects

  1. Name: Jennifer
    Student Number: 180410100170
    Class: B

    At 21:56 until 22:13, Verbal was observing the investigation room. It could be the clue but the word Guatemala, the picture of orca fat guy, and etc. were not shown when the camera shot the board. The shot of the board was quick, not clear and medium close-up. When I watched this movie for the first time, I had no idea that there is something important on the board. The details of the board have to be put at the ending as a surprise.

    In the end, all Verbal’s fake stories were revealed by showing some parts of the board. All Verbal’s accounts are lies. All flashback scenes (which represent Verbal’s imagination while creating fake stories) are not true.

    note: The flashback scene is Verbal’s imagination, not Kujan’s imagination. Kujan cannot imagine Kobayashi’s face.


    • It’s interesting how clues appear on the flashback scenes although they are fake stories. As if Verbal was lying but at the same time, another side of himself wanted to tell the truth. Therefore in his narration, he unintentionally put the clues on other characters’ words. For instance, after hitting the taxi service, McManus said, “To Mr. Verbal, the man with the plan.” It was contrary to Verbal’s statement that it was McManus and Fenster’s plan. The other clues appear on Keaton’s statement, “All we need to do is think, think back.” and Kobayashi’s statement, “You’ve heard many tales.” Those words echoed in Kujan’s head at the ending that made Kujan realize that Verbal was lying.


  2. 180410120021/C

    At 1:32:42 Kujan begins his version of conclusion and as the switching of scenes speed up at 1:34:28 – 1:34:49 it impresses as the climax. However, The Usual Suspects has a layered dénouement and the under layer consists of three different sequences; the first is the sketch at the hospital (1:37:56-1:38:05); the second sequence is Kujan and Rabin talking in Rabin’s office (1:38:21 – 1:38:40), which shifts simultaneously with; the third sequence, the eye on a long-shot following Verbal leaving the building. The climax sequence then starts at 1:39:43 as Kujan and Rabin stops talking, and in silence Kujan scans the board, which I remark as the calm, before the storm that starts at 1:39:43 – 1:40:43 when Kujan relates signs on the board. The whole movie, especially the mock-up dénouement, perfectly mimics the characteristic of Keyser Soze of a storm with a smooth calm. It gives us a stunning experience of watching the film and being affected as close as Kujan being tricked by Soze.


  3. Both of 04:35 and 1:28:32 are similar shots. The difference is only the color. In 04:35 where is a part of the opening is darker rather than 1:28:32.
    In 04:35 constructs mysterious and thrilling atmosphere, while 1:28:32 creates clear situation.
    I think in suspense movie, the tense should be built from the start. That’s why the color of opening scene must be dark.Another dark color especially at the opening seems at 04:19.
    Keyser Soze’s black suit makes him kind of invisible. Meanwhile, at 01:34:42 which is ending part, same shot of Keyser Soze’s black suit is shiny. That’s create clear image of Keyser Soze. Not only bright color that makes it clear, but also the shot. In 01:34:42 is medium close-up while 04:19 is close-up. I can see the presumptive of Keyser Soze which make me expect it is Keyser Soze.At the ending of scene should have clear pictures to think and also analyze the true facts.


  4. Rizki Puji Gustian

    (TUS, 1.41.31 – 1.41.41)
    The scenes show the change of the movement of how Verbal Kint walks and a sketch of a person accused as Keyser Söze. The walking scene can be said as one of the twists of the plot since Kint, whose legs are handicapped, does not walk normally in the previous scenes. The sounds of the narrator, or the dialogue, help the scene in making the twist. In 1.41.40, there is a cut leading to a scene in which the real identity of Kint is revealed by the sketch. These two scenes are the key of the case that the detective has, the searching of Keyser Söze.

    Words: 109


  5. 180410110128 / C

    Verbal’s belonging which he take before leaving the police station are golden watch, golden cigarette lighter, and a pack of cigarette. Verbal never use this two thing in the film even though they are quite conspicuous because of its color. This things are shown before. The items are worn/use by Keyser Soze in the beginning of the movie. Minute 00:03:38 to 00:04:30 is used to foreshadowing that Keyser Soze is using this two things. This is one of the reason why the camera is taking Keyzer Soze close up in his body. The items are only small details but in a mystery story, it can be a clue for the audience. When the audience see the golden items again in minute 01:38:12, they will be find out the twist a couple minutes before the movie show it.


    • Additional comment:
      I don’t know if this comment have connection to triangulation of the story, but I think there is a reason why the golden watch and cigarette lighter is never shown before. For example in minute 00:28:00s Verbal is using silver watch in his right wrist and in minute 01:09:00s he use common lighter to light his cigarette. My speculation is those things are Arkosh Kovash’s items because in minute 01:27:58 Akosh Kovash is shown wearing the same golden watch. Maybe Soze take it (also with the golden light cigarette) after he shot Kovash. In addition the accident and the police office scene is happened in same day (The accident happened in night 00:30 AM, 00:04:05, and the police office scene is happened afternoon 5:10 PM, 01:37:46) which make the items is taken along because as Kujan tell said that the one who tell the police about the accident is Verbal himself.


    • I agree that golden watch and golden cigarette lighter are the clues. You said, “in minute 00:28:00s Verbal is using silver watch in his right wrist” It shows that Verbal Kint is pretending to be right-handed while Keyser Soze is left-handed. (Keyser shoots Dean Keaton using his left hand; wears watch on his right wrist and open the lighter at 03:27 using his left hand.) At 24:10 until 24:12, Verbal is attempting to open the cigarette light using his right hand but he fails. That detail shows that Verbal is left-handed.

      I also agree that small details can be the clues for audiences. Moreover, the clues are important in building the climax (1:39:25 until 1:40:44). When I watched this movie for the first time, I didn’t get the point of that scene because I didn’t pay attention to the details. Now I realize that non linear plot, medium close-up shot (which makes audiences cannot get the whole setting and the whole fact), and the details of the characters aim to build the climax and to trick audiences.



      • Sorry, I mistyped “cigarette lighter” as “cigarette light” on the last sentence of the first paragraph.


  6. 180410120072/A

    Regardless the fact that Verbal is Keyser and he can walk normally, I think Verbal’s physical condition as a disable person helps the building of his characterization. That is due to the fact that even with his physical condition, Verbal is still accepted by other criminals in joining their plan which shows that from the beginning his characterization as a smart person, at least smarter than the others, has bees built. He is smart in using his words which are shown not only by his success in convincing Keaton to join the plan, but also by his role in the group, just like what McManus calls him, as the man with the plan which also becomes the only way to prove that he is useful.


    • 180410120064/ A

      I couldn’t agree more that Verbal is smart, in fact, he is brilliant. Nevertheless, it is after watching until the end that the viewers can conclude that he is brilliant, not only because of his speaking, convincing ability but also because of his acting in acting (to hide his real identity) ability, which is the most brilliant, methinks. He “is useful”, indeed, but I think “the man with the plan” statement is not the only proof. What obviously makes him useful is that he is the significant character for the story can go on.


  7. 180410120082/Kelas E

    It takes my interest on how Singer uses certain shot techniques of taking Keyser Soze’s figure to hide his identity until end of the film. In part when Soze is narrated killing his family and relatives and the background is exploding as he walks nearer toward the screen (01:01:35-43), not only the choice to do medium close-up shot from waist up but also the decision to shade the figure dark enough tickles the viewers’ curiosity and keep them assuming who is the man hiding behind the shadow is. This hide-your-identity-until-the-end suspense is also sustained by the assassinating scene when Hockney was shot in the chest from behind (01:21:44-54). When he turns his back to see, Hockney’s face was showered in bright light (and it was close-up face shot) showing how the director’s effort to maintain the suspense. This technique, therefore, presents how important such kind of techniques in film’s whodunit genre.

    Wordcount: 150


  8. Zitro Alviotti
    180410120125/ Class F

    During the period in 01:01:34- 01:01:43 when Keyser Soze was walking away, It was one of the flashbacks which is part of the twisted plot since the shots are not as same as in 03:00 – 04:20. during 03:00 – 04:00, the shots were taken from his legs until his shoulders, but during 01:01:34 – 01:01:43, the shots were taken from his head, until his thigh only. I think, Kint did this in purpose to make the description of Keyser Soze becomes vague since the cops (especially David Kujan) do not know the description of Keyser Soze.It is also prooved that in 01:01:34 – 01:01:43, the focus of Soze’s face is just for a brief and then the cut is focused on the fire. The point is, Kint don’t want Kujan to suspect him as Keyser Soze because Soze is Kint himself which was known in the end of the movie.

    (146 words)


  9. Diki Suherlan
    180410120071 / D

    I think in The Usual Suspects, character of Keyser Soze is a brilliant person, he not only has a role to deceive the judge but also he can ensure that a criminal is not exists or it is just a myth. Only a brilliant criminal who can do that and he is the one. Unwittingly in this film he described as a mysterious criminal. I think although he only appeared at the ending story, apparently he has an important and big role for whole plot of this story. I’m so interested with the most memorable scene at the ending war scene and twist that revealed who the Keyser Soze is.


  10. Muhammad Bahmaniar

    Since the very beginning, the director has (sort-of) shown that the main character of the story is Keaton through several ways; By placing him as the first character showed in the movie at (00:02:30), Showing Keaton’s life story more thoroughly than others and making the narrator talked about him a lot. On the contrary, the characterization of the other characters is not really detailed, except Verbal Kint. As a crippled guy, he, inevitably, draws audience attention, even it is only just a slightest, made him as a character to be counted on too. I think that this is the strategy the Director has made, so when the audience would think that Keaton is the centre of the story, turns out that it was just a camouflage (as how Kint also used as a strategy to fooled everyone) to a smooth yet raw, successful plot twist in the end.

    (Word Count: 147)


  11. 180410120012/A

    While the plot of The Usual Suspects is important, even more important is the manner in which it is told. The narrative is told in a non-linear fashion, going back and forth between the past and the present. This makes it much more exciting for the audience to see the story unfold, as there is a certain aura of mystery around the plot. By telling the story through flashbacks the audience is given the perspective of Verbal Kint; we are told what happened through his eyes, and because of this we are given a limited amount of information. However when the film cuts to the present and the ongoing investigation into the massacre on the ship, we are given additional information that Rodger is not supposed to know, since the only ones who know it are the investigators. Using this extra information,we will form theories about what happened and who is who, but the film gives you this information intentionally to make you form specific theories.

    (148 words)


  12. Christina Dwi Haryanti

    I am interesting in the technique of angles of this film. In this film, the technique of angles that used the most is close up, for example in 00:22:40- 00:23:28. The angles of Verbal Kint and Dave Kujan in these scenes are always the same. Verbal Kint angles were taken from backside of Dave Kujan which is I think that it indicates us that Verbal Kint is the narrator of the story, while Dave Kujan angles taken from next-side of Verbal Kint which is indicating the power of Dave Kujan as a police in the story. But I think, both of the angles are forcing us to have the same angles as the narrator.


  13. 180410120002/A

    I think the key which built the plot of the story is the character Verbal Kint. The existence of Verbal Kint after the incident in New York builds the plot because at that time he is the only one who can tell the story of the incident with his fake story to Dave Kujan in order to make the plot went well though there is flashback. The characterization of Verbal Kint which is weak makes him counted out as a suspect for killing his teammates. In addition, the shot when he tells Kujan that he swear he saw Keaton’s death (01:30:37) along with him seeing Keaton being shot by Keyser Soze (01:31:35) are enough to bring out the different setting between the present and the flashback or the past of the story.


  14. Felicia. M. Y


    Using the narration on narration helps the spectator to know who the point of view is being used and who the character is being the main character. For example, in 00.08.03 – 00.09.26, I as the spectator realize the character who is dominating the story when the narrator tries to describe the conflict in exposition and the camera usual to close-up one of the character is verbal. The spectator should be aware that the narrator is like God who has a power to make and control the plot of the story in exposition until falling action. For example in 00.10.19 Fenster is talking something and the voice of him is muffled, however the voice of narrator is made to be heard. It can be seen how the narrator has the power to make another narration on narration. Then, it can also be seen the characterization of Verbal Kint in the story through the way of narrator speaks. Therefore the use of narration on narration is to build the plot, suspense and the characterization of all characters.

    Word count: 175


  15. 180410120055/F

    I basically do believe that a picture shooting is one of ways to support the revelation of settings on any film. However, in “The Usual Suspect” I found out some unnecessary shots to show the settings. For instances, in [38:39] the camera applied medium-close-up to show a building that later I know it is a hospital. Nevertheless, I think it was unnecessary for the taken picture contains a very meaningless clue/ sign showing that it is a hospital. I think it is better if the director/camera-man give medium-shot in side of the hospital to support the image of hospital itself. The same thing also happens when the wide-to-medium-shot was used in [41.29], trying to show Kujan’s room. Even so, the usage of setting revelation by the “shot” was nicely made in [18.15], this way I can clearly know where the scene is actually taking place.
    Words: 147


  16. 180410120066/A

    I think that the viewers see the event of the story through the point of view of Agent Kujan, because he is more reliable than Verbal who is involved in the crime scene. However, Kujan sees the story from the point of view of Verbal because he is the only witness, thus the viewers do not know what Kujan does not know. The character of Verbal is chosen to be interviewed by Kujan because he is the weakest one, so it seems impossible for him to mastermind the crime. Verbal’s version of the story leads Kujan to conclude that Keaton is Kayser Soze without considering whether Verbal is an honest narrator or not. How the story of the event is presented and how the character of Verbal is created build the twisted plot in the end of the movie.

    (139 words)


  17. Adelia Putri Ramadhanti
    180410120003 / A

    Wide angle at 16:57 to 17:05 is interesting because I can get an interesting perspective if the depth of field is set, then we as the audience will be able to put ourselves on the point of view or we can give a perspective on the point of view. At first, I thought from that wide angle as if we are there and see the bodies directly. But, the longer the wide angle getting widened up until the shoulder and back’s Jack Baer, an agent of FBI, are shown, then our point of view is getting wider or another perspective appears that the point of view at the beginning on that wide angle is Jack Baer’s point of view.


  18. Deby Rahmawati

    Verbal give a unique analogy, he was able to convince that Soze never existed and a myth. Soze is a successful character described by him and he creates characters hidden in plain sight. He “just appeared” at the end of the story even though the key of the whole series’ story itself was in his hand.
    Interrogation itself reveals flow back and forth to adjust the description of Kent with the actual scene visualization. Especially in the opening sequence, the unknown gunman urinates on a flame and it is gelatinous and lumpy. Later on, Verbal tells Kujan that when he gets dehydrated, his urine becomes gelatinous and lumpy.
    Dark colors can be directly seen from the initial scene in the boat, catching five criminals, arrest five criminals, and murder Fenster on the beach, with dark colors, one by one mystery dismantled and the effect gives the impression of tension and fear.

    Word Count: (150)


  19. Bunga Asih Insani

    There is a cut at 01.04.40 in the hospital where the Hungarian describes Keyser Soze as the police makes the sketch. Although the cut is only fifteen seconds and seems like being put randomly between the interrogation scene, but it is enough to catch our attention with dramatization of people’s voices being muted, background music and the beep sound of heart monitor. The cut ends with the drawing which is seen from the side, so that we cannot look at it. From there, we have a clue that Soze must be a character that we know. So, when Kujan suspects Keaton as Soze, with reasonable explanation, the audience will likely be satisfied with that climax. At 01.38.00, when the sketch is sent through fax, the audience wait for Keaton’s face on the paper, not expecting more surprising revelation. But, before it is revealed, there is the real plot twist when Kujan notices details on Rabin’s board that makes him realize that Verbal has tricked him, as well as the audience. Finally, the sketch at 01.41.42 determines the real suspect.


  20. Yana Dania Aulianisa

    I think Verbal Kint was the most important character in this movie because he gave many explanations about who is Keyser Soze, and he built the plot of this movie by telling the story about what was happened in the past related to the cases and Soze; moreover, he was succeeded to deceive the police, the other characters in the movie, and me as the spectator. I think if Kint did not giving the narration about Soze and the past cases, the spectator could not see the plot of this movie. In the end of the story, the camera close up to Kint’s shoes who was walking out from the police office, and in one second the way he was walked was changed in one shot; it made me to focus seeing on his feet and saw the changing, so I could realize that Kint had another identity, and it is Soze.


  21. 180410120022/B

    On 00:25:23 and 00:42:08, when Dave interrogated Verbal, the camera in the close-up position with the Dave’s face position is higher than Verbal. This position gives a more intimidating impression when Dave interrogated Verbal. With the face position also gives more advantages to Dave, this position gives an effect if here he is most powerful. With this close-up position is also the audience can see more clearly the expressions made by the two actors, especially Dave expression, his eyes were very clear glared to Verbal it feels like Dave is talking to Verbal that “I can do anything to you if you do not tell me the truth”.

    Words: 107


  22. Wiwin Cahyati

    In the scene 01:37:38 when David Kujan finished interrogating Verbal Kint, there is Kujan’s character assume that the problem is overcome already finished by stating that Soze character already known. But the scene in the movie plot 01:39:42 make this movie more interesting when Kujan see the words “Skokie, IL. 60077 “and Kajun began to remember all the Verbal’s words during questioning by him, and the character of Kujan here is fooled by the actual puzzles are made available by Verbal and Kajun finally realized that he had deceived himself and eventually realized that in fact about Soze is Verbal Kint.

    Word Count: 101


  23. Shiendy Qarina N

    After I watch this movie I was confused with less character Keyser Soze is often mentioned by another character, but not in the figure appear like? Keyzer Soze mysterious character that makes this film filled with puzzles and to ambiguous.
    At first I assumed that the figures Keyzer Soze was a top-class thief who has many men, a fugitive, and a cold-blooded killer. After I watched half of the movie I thought it was a figure Keyzer Soze edie because he is a character who rarely appears in the story, but it turns out at the end of the story when verbal kint left the police station and explained what had happened in New York turned out to uncover the Keyser Soze figure it is verbal kint.


  24. 180410120130

    This movie represents an interesting story with Verbal as the main character. I think he has double identities which are build his real character. He used Keyser Soze as an abstract character and the most influenced identity to make his real identity more invisible. Physically, he is a cripple man who looks very weak, stupid and uncommunicative person as what Dave Kujan said (at 01:36:13). Hence, it makes another perception of the other characters. In my opinion, the main conflict in this movie is when the characters looking for the real identity of Keyser, then he makes Keyser’s identity as a troublemaker which created a conflict between the characters of the story.

    Word count: 112


  25. Lenia Iryani

    I am more concern about expression. I like the way Kint shows his close-up face. From his expression, I am able to assume who Keaton is. At 41.59, Kint’ expression is very interesting. He is smiling while the detective is interrogating him. I am not sure Kint is truly happy. I think he is stress because he is hiding the truth. At 42.04, suddenly Kint has a blank stare on his face. At 42.15, he does not even see both camera and the detective, he does not want to hear the detective’ words more. When the detective is telling Kint a lot, Kint’ eyes are not looking at the camera, he sees another side. I guess Kint is really depression. The conclusion is at 42.36, there is an extremely close-up face which means Kint’ is in the big trouble.


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