The Usual Suspects Analysis

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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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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 scene”.

Lighting is very important in this scene. A powerful blinding-white light is shone on each character which allows to viewer to have a real up-close detailed view of each character. This reinforces the sense that the men have been removed from their dark underworlds of crime and are put under interrogation. The last character, Verbal, who when is on screen features a side camera angle, with a contrasting band of bright light only to the left of his face, leaving the right side of his face in partial darkness. This creates a sense of mystery about this particular character which may go unnoticed by most, but can actually be viewed as a hint vital to the story
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