Stylistic Analysis Of The Usual Suspects

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Stylistic Analysis Essay
Film: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Name: Adam Edelberg
Student Number: EDLADA002
Tutor: Mayuyuka Kaunda

The filmmakers of The Usual Suspects (directed by Bryan Singer) succeeded in creating a film that ‘pushes the envelope’ of the generic crime-thriller motion picture. The film genre can be classified as a neo-noir crime thriller, where we see cinematography akin to film noir, namely, low-key lighting and striking use of light and shadows. While conventions of this genre are followed, few rules are broken. Kroll (2012) claims that we are in an age where “all movie genres are being subverted, postmodernized, de-constructed, film noir is a tough genre to mess around with”. The Usual Suspects manages to experiment with
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The first scene comprises a constant use of movement this coupled with editing and sound, these scenes are linked dextrously and lead to producing an enthralling and suspenseful ending.

The use of continuous moving camera shots, editing and sound are all used to build a sense of uncertainty and psychological distress throughout the movie. In the line-up scene, this is especially true. The police station line-up scene is, however, quite unusual for this genre of film. It does not adhere with the conventions of film noir nor with the elements of a crime or thriller film. This is fundamentally due to the contrasting composition including the mise-en-scène of this particular sequence as compared to the rest of the film.

Mise-en-scène is defined by Bordwell and Thompson (2013) as “to signify the director’s control over what appears in the film frame”, which is originally from the French term and quite appropriately, “putting into the
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Diegetic sound and specifically the dialog in this scene is significant as it gives the audience a clear sense of what is actually occurring within this scene. The narration of the story is played as we view the different bits of information on the evidence board linking the fabricated story to all the images and texts. The voice-over narration is used to let the audience know that the villainous character is going to leave the precinct and get away unharmed while consequently his devious plan has also been deconstructed.


MITCHELL, D. (2000) Sound Lies - achieving closure in The Usual Suspects. Available from: [Accessed: 05 September 2014].

KROLL, J. (2012) Crooks, Creeps And Cons. Available from: [Accessed: 04 September 2014].

BORDWELL, D. & THOMPSON, K. (2013) Film Art: An Introduction. 10th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

IMDB. (n.d.) The Usual Suspects (1995) Technical Specifications. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 04 September 2014].

The Usual Suspects. (1995) Film. Directed by Bryan Singer [DVD] U.S.: Gramercy

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