My Unusual Experience with The Usual Suspects

The poster featured at the bottom of this post has hung in my room for most of my life. I’d never seen the film, but I knew it was a good one. Why else would it be hanging in my room? Let me explain.

My brother is 12 years older than me, so he was out of college before I was out of elementary school. Naturally, I moved into his room as soon as he was no longer occupying it. Over the years I gradually changed things about it, replacing his books with my own, his furniture with my own, and his poster with my own- except for one. I don’t know why, but I just kept it up. I guess I didn’t really have anything I wanted to replace it with, and it hung on the back of my closet door- prominent enough so that I saw it every day, but not exactly prime real estate. So it stayed.

Over the years, I guess I subconsciously developed an idea of who these people were. The tagline “Five criminals/One line up/No coincidence” gave me an idea of what the film was about, and it kind of stuck with me. Actually watching The Usual Suspects for the first time was one of the strangest experiences of my film-watching career.

I honestly can’t be specific in any way. I don’t know what I expected. I don’t know who I thought each character would be. I might have even thought the film would be a comedy. All I know is that the opening sequence- the burning of the boat, the rounding up of each criminal- was impossible for me to understand. I had to rewind and keep watching it because I just couldn’t grasp exactly what was going on. It was like I had to consciously separate the story in front of me from the story I accidentally developed in childhood. I’ve never had an experience like that before- it was absolutely surreal.

I’ll probably need to watch it again at some point to see if I’ll be able to further understand the reality of the film. But hey, at least now it has some reason to hang in my room.

0 thoughts on “My Unusual Experience with The Usual Suspects

  1. I think your post gets at the heart of advertising for films. The deliberate teasing of plot aspects and characters without full context is meant to have exactly the impact that the “Usual Suspects” poster had on you. When we see a trailer or poster, we begin to fill in those blanks and write our own mental version of the movie. I consider this a major motivation for going to the theatre, so see whether the version of a movie I’m predicting matches up with the final product. That being said, I also think films are far more engaging when this expectation is not met, otherwise, you get the commonly used “this was too predictable” complaint. We expect the film industry to deliver both what it promises in trailers and something entirely surprising at the same time.

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