The most brilliant element of The Usual Suspects is that the story of the drug deal is told by one of the criminals, Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey). Through his re-telling of the events, Verbal manipulates the audience into believing what he wants them to believe, and we fall for it. We can’t help but believe him, as what he says directly follows what we see on screen. However, at the end, we realize he has been deceiving us all along. Of course, director Bryan Singer wanted to reveal this in the most convincing and effective way as possible. The original plans for the reveal of Verbal as Keyser Soze were quite different from the final cut of the film. Kevin Spacey notes, “We had some discussions about, do we want it to be cosmetic? Does Verbal come down the stairs of the police station and as he’s beginning to walk away, shed his jacket and tussel his hair and get into the car and maybe a jacket comes out of the car and he puts on a different sports coat and suddenly he puts on a pair of dark glasses and suddenly physically he changes…and ultimately we found what would be more profound and debilitating for an audience in terms of going, ‘What a minute’, was if absolutely nothing changed but your perception, literally as if the angle from which you were watching our character completely shifted 380 degrees and you suddenly saw that person entirely differently and nothing had changed but the way you viewed it” (The Usual Suspects DVD).
The Usual Suspects. Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie. Dir. Bryan Singer. Special Edition DVD. Polygram Filmed Entertainment, 1995.