Giving a film 10/10 on IMDb is an accolade that does not get bestowed easily. In fact, out of 556+ ratings I have only given 10/10 to ten films. This list of absolute gems includes Mulholland Dr., Brick, Toy Story, Shaun of the Dead, and most recently, after a third viewing and an upgrade from 9/10, The Usual Suspects.
The Usual Suspects is the greatest film you haven’t seen but of which you probably know the ending. It is almost certainly a mainstay in the ‘top 3 narrative twists’ section of those film compilation shows and rightfully earns its place in the hearts and minds of its audience.
Even after a third viewing, the treacle-like plot structure draws you in and saturates your every pore with the sweaty, overpowering heat of LA, finely-tuned neo noir stylistics, and the mystery behind a group of forsaken men, their relationships and eventual downfall. As per the course in noir films, the city becomes the main character. Its sweltering temperatures during the day cause havoc in the lives of its occupants; cocooned in aluminium on the gridlocked streets; pacing around in the high noon sun; blinded by the sweat pouring off their foreheads; and going about their business in a lucid haze of specular glare and coffee. At night it becomes a different beast; inanimate shapes cast shadows in clinical light; the vile scum of the underworld commit their daily sins to the sound of shrill strings and ominous bass notes.
The Usual Suspects stars an ensemble cast of legends and has-beens, is tonally oppressive, intriguing and exciting, and is overscored by Kevin Spacey’s voice over, which at times becomes like an omniscient presence trying to shed light on the ever-increasing complexity of the narrative. An assaulting pace piles on the plot nuances and keeps you one step behind at all times, even when the credits have rolled. This does not hinder your ability to enjoy the film. In fact, it does quite the opposite. Every single shot, every single glance, retort, musical note, transition is met with child-like glee. If you love film noir you’ll get all the references, homages, and it will leave you wanting to watch the classics.
This movie is so damn good. The acting, story, style, pace, ambition, all of these factors and more make The Usual Suspects a complete movie and one that hasn’t been matched in the genre since. I’d defy anyone to watch this movie and not enjoy it, even if you’ve already seen it. In fact, it’s that good I think I’ll watch it again. And again. And again.