By Walid Habboub
April 10, 2002
Before I even get into reviewing this special-edition version DVD of my all-time favorite movie, and arguably one of the most influential movies of the '90s, be warned that spoilers are generously peppered throughout the review. So assuming that you are one of the very few people who still has not seen this film - and shame on you for that - please note that the plot of the film will be discussed liberally and you absolutely should not read on; just go out and buy this DVD right now.
First off, the movie itself is a classic, and lives infamously in people's memories. I would be lying if I gave it anything less than a rating of ten out of ten, and having been one of the few people that actually saw it in theatres upon its initial release, I feel I must give it a ten. Everything works in this film, from the clever, tough-as-nails script to the dark, brooding, hauntingly memorable score to the wonderful editing and the beautiful visuals; this film has it all. It is the culmination of many talents coming together under the leadership of a gifted director and producing something original and, at the time, very unique. It is a very special film that goes beyond its fabled twist and works on many levels. Supporting the excellent script and direction are very strong performances by actors who were propelled to stardom due to this film; Oscar® winners Kevin Spacey and Benicio Del Toro both had breakthrough roles, with what are easily their most memorable performances, in this film.
The strength of the DVD is the fact that it provides a very charming view of all the creative talent involved with the film. The experience of the DVD is very powerful in that it leaves you with a strong sense of what the people involved with film are like and puts across a real sense of their individual experiences and thoughts about the film. The DVD also leaves you with a very clear perception of what making the film was like and what kind of a project it was. All of these combine to truly enhance the experience of watching the film and become a part of the entire mythos of The Usual Suspects.
The DVD does all this through some really cool and incredibly well-made special features. The DVD includes five behind-the-scenes featurettes, two commentary tracks, trailers and TV spots, a gag reel and deleted scenes. The featurettes are excellent and can be played as one single feature, but watching them separately gives you a better focus on what the central subject of the featurette is. The most compelling one is Keyser Soze: Lie or Legend, consisting of the story of the creation of Soze and the true nature of Soze as viewed by the actors and creative group behind him. The strength of the DVD lies in just that; the interviews used for the special features. All the people interviewed are quite candid about their experience and speak with such passion about the project that it certainly gives you a feeling of how special the experience was.
Beyond their insight is the wonderful humor they all bring to the table. Kevin Pollack is the most glaringly hysterical of them all. The highlight of the interviews is he and Stephen Baldwin trading jabs while neither is aware the other is doing it; you really get a sense of fun there. Of course, the infamously funny line-up scene is highlighted quite generously and absolutely meets all the expectations you might have in regards to the scene. The story of the scene itself is wonderful and the actors' and director's retelling of it is even more charming; it turns an already famous scene into a wonderful experience. This is just one of many incredibly charming and funny aspects of a DVD that does everything a DVD should.
Overall, this is one of the best DVDs I have ever seen. It hits all the right notes at all the right times. It takes a low-budget independent film and shows you how a group of very talented, charming and dedicated people came together to produce one of the most loved films of all time. The cast of characters that made up the cast of the film all have their own distinct personalities, and they all revolve around a talented and ambitious, yet humble, young director. And therein lies the true strength of the DVD: It makes you love the people who made the film, including everyone from the underrated editor/composer John Ottman, whose contribution to the film was not only critical but also very instrumental in delivering the high quality of the final product, to the director who is so humble that he spends a lot of his time deferring the credit to the actors and people who helped him put the film together. And it is the effort that went into the DVD that makes it all worthwhile and really very special. This is easily one of the best DVD purchases you will ever make.
Easter Egg Bonus: In the Special Features menu, highlight the text box with The Usual Suspects written in it by pressing up at the top-most "feature listing." That will take you to a special screen with five different possible highlights. "POLICE" gives you instructions on how to unveil the Easter Egg; you must click the links in a specific order to get the extra features. The order is Quartet, Guatemala, Orca, and Kobayashi. The first feature, the interview with John Ottman, is a little on the slow side and is the only less-than-stellar feature on the DVD. The second feature, "Interview Outtakes," is wonderful, and gives you an even better sense of the people involved in the film (the highlight could be seeing Bryan Singer's passion for movies)