Remedial Geekery: THE USUAL SUSPECTS

You aren’t going to believe me when I say this, but knowing the identity of Keyser Söze before seeing The Usual Suspects for the first time this past week did not ruin my enjoyment of the flick one bit.

“You can’t be serious,” I hear you saying. OK, I admit my way of experiencing movies is a bit unorthodox, but consider this: does knowing that there will be a bunch of bodies on the floor at the end of Hamlet keep you from enjoying that narrative? Or, to get a bit more risky—because this is certainly a divisive film—does knowing that the Titanic is going to sink at the end of Titanic have any impact on your enjoyment of that flick?

Listen: I actually get nervous for a movie, book, or TV series if I don’t want to be spoiled for me. When I don’t want to be spoiled, I think that has something to do with a lack of faith that the story will hold up under repeated viewings or readings. If the only thing a narrative has going for it is the shock value of the surprise ending, I’d rather not waste my time on watching it at all.

Luckily, The Usual Suspects is a film I see myself revisiting, if not on a regular basis then at least every time I’m itching for a great crime movie. The casting is superb, from known quantities like Kevin Spacey (whose role in Se7en was what reminded me I still hadn’t seen this flick) to actors I’ve always been less certain about (Stephen Baldwin and Benicio Del Toro). The look of the film is dated in a good way—every once in a while I like a film that is firmly established in the 1990s. And the story—well, the story is fantastic.

Sure, the wacky relationship between plot and chronology here—flashbacks within flashbacks, and all that—will confuse passive viewers, but for the person who invests even half of their attention (I think I was coding my Website at the time) there is so much here. How did everyone die? Who’s the guy bandaged up in the hospital? Why do I get the sneaking suspicion that everything these guys have been going through, from the line-up on down, has been a set-up? Who is Keyser Söze?

You classify a story as a mystery, and I walk away. But a story without mystery is a story I’m not really interested in. Make sense? This is a crime/caper movie if we’re talking genre, but it’s got enough mystery in it to keep me coming back for more.

So, on a scale of one to five geeks, I’d give this one a solid four and a half.

And now, my friends, it’s on to the next session of my course in Remedial Geekery. The idea here is that I’ve got to watch all the films of days gone by that I should have seen ages and ages ago. Here are a few I haven’t seen yet. Should I rent one of those next, or do you have another suggestion?