Analysing thriller trailers: ‘The Usual Suspects’

Posted: November 15, 2010 in Media

A film I personally view as a classic and brilliant tale, and influenced me a lot in my AS course, I thought ‘The Usual Suspects’ being such a classic thriller, could help me learn how to convey the chosen genre of thriller in my trailer to the audience…

Ok, I just have to point out that halfway through my analysis YouTube decided to delete the trailer for some odd reason or another. But, I love the film, and wanted to finish the analysis whether YouTube wanted me to see it or not. So, I luckily found the trailer I was analysing on my 2 disc addition of the film and could finish it. Unfortunately I just can’t post the actual trailer to my blog. Sorry.


Overall I think the trailer makes the genre of the film very obvious to the audience as it includes a lot of codes and conventions which are usually seen within the thriller film. For example, there are various mystery elements conveyed throughout the trailer, such as the use of extreme close-ups and reaction shots- which are regularly used in thriller films as they help add to the tension in the audience as they can see various shots like character’s eyes shocked and scared or a hand holding a gun and shooting it, but they do not get to see the whole picture. The audience cannot see the identities of various characters or what they are reacting to etc and so the audience is tense to know who they truly are/what they’re reacting to and it gives off a hint that the film will be a very mysterious and confusing one. Another thing I think really gives away the genre of thriller is the crime aspect within the trailer- we have the suspects, the cops trying to catch them, referencing to crimes being carried out/planned, possible red herrings, interrogations, victims of crime and the whole Cops Vs Criminals (all big conventions within thriller films).


Well overall I think this is a hard thing to make out from the trailer. Firstly, there doesn’t appear to be an equilibrium- as it’s quickly established to the audience that 27 men have died in mysterious circumstances. This naturally makes them want to know what the nature and meaning is behind this crime and how it’ll affect the film. We also get the sense that Agent Dave Kujan is our hero trying to restore the equilibrium by finding and catching the killer behind it all, but the audience don’t know if he’ll be successful, so they want to watch on and find out…And then the line-up is shown and reveals more confrontations and conflicts within the plot- that these characters link into the crime we have seen in some way but we don’t know how exactly (or who is the guilty one in other words). We want to know who the characters are and what part they’ll play in the film, thus gaining the audience more interest in the film itself and makes them want to watch on even more as they have more characters to connect to. Learning that there is something deeper lying behind this line-up the audience begins to wonder what and how it affects the film itself. To confuse things even further the trailer’s focus goes a bit onto the introduction of Keyser Soze. But does nothing more than mention his name, making the audience wonder how he is important and more interestingly, who he actually is! the audience’s focus is put back onto the suspects and they are introduced individually to them a ll and their attitudes and personalities are revealed also, letting the audience make assumptions about their characters and how they’ll affect how the film plays out it also builds tension as to who the audience personally thinks is the real criminal behind it all- is it one of the suspects? We then see ‘Verbal’ talking of the character of Keyser Soze and the crime itself, letting the audience know that the film itself will regularly venture into flashbacks, but the question is, will these memories help Kujan and the audience discover who the culprit is? And how does this link to Keyser Soze? There are then hints that somehow, this character of Keyser Soze and the suspects will come into contact and crimes will occur because of (talk of money and death implies this) and the audience wonder whether this information will lead Kujan to discover who Soze is? And furthermore, is Soze the criminal Kujan is actually searching for? And who is he? Furthermore the trailer doesn’t on any certainty that the equilibrium will be restored (which is a good thing in my opinion!) as we see lots of problems occurring in shots and talks of Soze being evil but we don’t know whether the suspects fight against Soze, work with him or where any of this will all lead even. All we know is that ‘Verbal’ will tell us his story of whatever happened, but whether he knows anything about who is behind it or not all remains a mystery…



Most of these USPs are revealed as titles that are at the very end of the trailer (which are all actors names, and there is a lot of them…). There is  ‘Stephen Baldwin’ – who is quite a well-known Hollywood actor for his roles in films such as ‘A Simple Twist of Fate’ (which interestingly, also starred Gabriel Byrne, who plays Dean Keaton), ‘8 Seconds’ and more recently, adventure film ‘The Flyboys’. And I think it is arguable that the introduction of Stephen Baldwin’s name in the trailer  is not only a good USP because of the works he has done/ films he has been in but also due to the ‘Baldwin’ name- and popularity of his brothers who are also actors (Alec, William ‘Billy’ and Daniel). Another USP is comedian and actor ‘Kevin Pollak’ which may intrigue the audience to watch the film if they have enjoyed the roles he has played in previous films such as ‘Casino’ and ‘The Whole Ten Yards’. We also have Gabriel Byrne’ – well-known Irish actor/director/writer etc, who will probably be recognized by audiences mostly for his roles in films such as ‘Miller’s Crossing’ and ‘Vanity Fair’ and if audiences have watched these films and enjoyed his role within them, seeing his name (and as he plays one of the leading characters) will naturally make the audience want to see this film after seeing his name in the trailer. And then ‘Chazz Palminteri’ -perhaps most well-known for his role in the crime-comedy ‘Bullets over Broadway’ which got him nominated for an Academy award for Best Supporting actor. Therefore his name will get the audience members interested in seeing this film if they have seen him play roles within films they have enjoyed before. Also the mention of  the very talented and popular actor ‘Kevin Spacey’ will definitely be bound to get audiences in to see the film when his name appears in the trailer- for his roles in films such as ‘American Beauty’ (which won him an Academy Award for best actor) ‘Se7en‘ (as the villain John Doe, which won him an MTV Movie award for best villian) and ‘Swimming With Sharks’. We also have Benicio Del Toro’ – well known for his work in films such as the popular ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (alongside star Johnny Depp) , ‘Traffic’ which gained him an Academy Award for Best Supporting actor and more recently ‘The Wolfman’. And last, but not least in any sense, we have ‘Pete Postlethwaite’ very popular and recognized English actor for his roles in films like Baz Lurhman’s ‘Romeo + Juilet’ and Christopher Nolan’s recent ‘Inception’– a popular actor whose name would certainly get audiences in the cinema to watch it. Actors names aside (although they’re a  good USP make no mistake) I think the best USP of the trailer and indeed the whole film is its unique quality- the fact it is conveyed to be so different and original. The story portrayed appears to be so unpredictable and complex this immediately makes the audience want to watch the film as it gives them more to think about and consider than if it had seemed simple and predictable.

Target Audience…

Well, I don’t mean to be stereotypical but it does seem that this film is mainly intended for a more male audience. Why? Well typically people think that thriller films, especially ones involving a lot of crime, weapons and violence are films that attract more of a male audience than a female one (though that is very stereotypical since personally I prefer these kind of films too). Also, I’d like to point out that throughout the entire trailer, not ONE female character is established. The whole of the lead cast are male (which includes ALL of the main characters of the film) and to be honest I can only think of one female character that actually has any lines or significance in the film itself, and that is Edie (Keaton’s lawyer wife) who is not even established in the trailer either (and even then I think she only has about 5 lines in the whole film). SO due to this extremely male-dominated cast I think that men are definitely the biggest target audience displayed in the trailer as there are more characters men can connect with better than women could and there are also male characters with different values and going through different stages in their lives (like Keaton who is ready to hang up his boots and settle down with his new wife, or the young and cocky McManus and Fenster who just want to have a bit of fun and don’t really care about their actions as much as Keaton does) which would mean a wider age range of men would also be targeted and want to watch the film because of it.


The trailer begins with quiet yet tension building music, this establishes the initial mood of the trailer- tense and mysterious- leading the audience to get the impression of what kind of film this trailer is promoting. The fact the music is quiet also reinforces how this is the opening of the trailer- and therefore the trailer is likely to try and build up the music and at this stage they want to convey vital information about the film across (and having loud music play across the top of this information would only confuse and distract audiences, which wouldn’t help the trailer’s overall effect really)

However, the music does have distant ‘booms’ or ‘thuds’ in the background teamed with this music, helping to build tension and mystery as it  connotes that something bad is about to happen within the trailer and the audience is tense to know what- thus this will make them want to watch on..

As the crime and the suspects are introduced, the music then gets much faster- this builds tension in the audience as they have been given the vital facts- the nature of the crime and hint that there is something more going on- now they have the question of who the culprit is. So this builds audience tension as they wonder who the real culprit behind the crime is. And then the presence of violins featured in the music (which I noticed is actually taken from the film itself)- and this not only insinuates tragedies such as death within the film, but also shows how the trailer is not revealing the deeper aspects of the film and what is hidden beneath the surface. It makes the audience focus more on the trailer as it insinuates they are about to be given more information on the film.

The music quiets down once again and gets also a bit slower- helping to build tension and also so as the moving dialogue that also conveys a lot of information about the film (so the music does not cover this dialogue and therefore make the audience miss it). Changing once again, the music builds up to a much louder and grander tone. This makes the atmosphere quite tragic and scary- especially at the mention of the character of Keyser Soze, which insinuates that this is the villain of the film and makes the audience tense in the wonder of why they should feel sorry for them and who he is (obviously leading them to want to watch the rest of the trailer and see if they find out).

The music then gets much faster as the pace quickens and more plot points are introduced. It then has quite a tragic and grand tone as Keyser Soze is mentioned once again, especially referencing to what he is asking of the suspects ( which seems to be a big and challenging task) and hinting at the powerful criminal of whom the character is, making the audience tense at his real identity. The music then builds even further to match the fast pace of the montage in the trailer. This adds to the mystery and tension to what is actually going on within this montage and then all of a sudden….boom. It stops. This makes the audience therefore focus on what is happening in the shot- which consists of ‘Verbal’s little quote about Keyser Soze. The silence also adds to the gripping and tense atmosphere of the trailer. And finally there is a last piece of music for the trailer to end on- which fades out and signals the end of the trailer itself…


Personally I really thought the camerawork of this trailer was it’s most useful and interesting aspect…

The trailer begins with an establishing shot- establishing the location of the film (or one of its locations anyway) and we realise the film is currently taking place on a ship (given away mostly by the shot of the round window)- but why? And what significance does this have to the film? Going into the ship we have an extreme close up of swinging lightbulb- which indicates perhaps people/characters have come running through the ship’s inner rooms in a rush or hurry- suggesting chaos or chaos that has only just calmed down. But this builds tension as to what chaos this has been and how it will affect the film overall.

Interestingly we then have what seems to be a POV shot, walking down an empty corridor of the ship- this implies that a character is alive and well, and presently on board the ship. But due to the fact this si a POV shot, this indicates mystery- who si this character and where are they walking to? The red lights in this shot I’d also like to point out cleverly connote bloodshed and violence to happen later on in the film/trailer (which, together with the mystery element of who the character is, indicates the thriller genre).

We then have another shot very conventional of the thriller genre, which si the extreme close up- this time of a character’s foot as his cigarette falls to the floor, ignites a flame and he makes his escape. This heightens tension and adds mystery as to who this character is and the full extent to what he has done (and maybe why he has done it!). This also interestingly links to the voice-over, which at this point is talking about crime, leading the audience to make the assumption that crime will be a big ongoing theme within the film itself and therefore indicates the thriller genre even further. To make the film seem even more mysterious we then are given another extreme close up of a character’s hand gripping a gun and then shooting it. This builds tension in the audience as they cannot see who the character who has the gun is and who or what he is shooting either, giving them more interest to want to watch on and perhaps even see the film itself to get answers.

Introducing the character of Agent Dave Kujan we then have an over the shoulder/ mid shot (taken from over another character’s shoulder, whom Kujan is speaking to) and this establishes Kujan’s character to the audience as well as his role within the film- that he is investigating what happened on the ship (linking back to the shots we just saw in the opening of the trailer). We then have another useful over the shoulder/high angle shot- which is over the shoulder of another agent, looking down at dead bodies. This indicates that is now this character’s duty to find these dead people’s killer, and thus we are put into this character’s shoes and feel very pressured- so will he able to find the killer? Or will the killer slip away from them?

Keeping in the theme of the thriller genre we have, again, another extreme close up- this time of a lot of jewels. This indicates crime once again, as this looks like an object any thief would absolutely love to steal, and as the audience already can indicate the film will be mostly about crime/criminals/cops they can indicate these jewels will be stolen. But how will it affect the film? And who steals them?

We then have an establishing shot of the five main character’s of the film- which also happens to be a long shot of the iconic line-up in the film. This allows the audience to be introduced to the suspects as a group- the long shot making them look cramped together in the room which reinforces how they are, in the line-up, pulled together as a group for a reason that is yet untold. A long shot also means we can see the characters pretty much from head to toe, and their posture and facial expressions ( also the way they are dressed and standing) lets the audience assume what kind of characters they are. For example, the way Fenster has an open-neck shirt on suggests his character is very laid-back and casual, and the way Keaton is standing with his arms folded around the coat he is holding and a look of annoyance and frustration on his face makes the audience think that he is a character who is very straight-forward and serious- and also, his clothes look quite expensive and elegant compared to the others, so this can link to how he says he is a ‘business man’ and let the audience make the judgment that he is quite a rich and successful character (or at least, he is trying to be). To establish that these character are important to the film, we are then given mid shots of McManus, Hockney, Fenster. This allows the audience tos ee what kind of attitudes these characters have (especially towards the police) as we can see their facial expressions as they are questioned by the police. Seeing them be interrogated also raises the question of why these characters are being questioned and how this links into the film.

After the line-up we see reaction shots of Hockney, McManus and Fenster. Their expressions tell the audience that they are confused, stressed and tired, aswell as this they all look rather serious- so why? What has caused them to look this way? Does it have something to do with the line-up itself?

Helping to establish the genre of thriller once again, we have another extreme close up. This time it is of a hand lighting a cigarette. But the way the audience cannot see who the hand actually belongs to (and therefore which character it is) that insinuates the film will be mysterious and have lots of twists and turns int he plot (as thrillers do) and also makes the audience keen to watch on to discover which character this really is. Furthermore, the camera tracks this character as he seems to make a get-away from the ship- but the nature of the lighting and the fact the shot is a long one means the audience cannot possibly identify him. But it reinforces the mystery element of the film and makes the audience wonder also whether he will actually get away or will he be caught. Oh and furthermore- what has he done that is so bad he has run away from and seemed to burn all the evidence?

There are then reaction shots from two characters who appear to be detectives/agents within the- their shocked and scared reactions makes the audience wonder what they are reacting to and builds tension within the trailer also.

But then we see a possible thing they could be reacting to, which is shown by a close up of a victim (which we can tell this character is as he is in a hospital bed with half of his face burnt off) and this heightens tension in the audience as this character shouts ‘Keyser Soze!’. This makes the audience wonder who Keyser Soze is and what he has to do with the film and the crimes that we’ve already seen occur, it also makes us ask how the suspects are a part of this. We also want to know what happened to this character as he looks like he has terrible injuries- so why? And who is he? His expressions are also seen to be scared and desperate, is he trying to warn the other characters of something?

There are then a mix of mid shots and close ups as the trailer properly introduces us to individually (when before it was more of viewing the suspects as a group rather than individuals) to the characters of Dean Keaton, Fred Fenster, Todd Hockney, Michael McManus and ‘Verbal’ Kint. This not only reinforces that they are important characters but also, the closer shots help establish what kind of characters they are as individuals and what the audiences and can expect from them in the film. Such as we see McManus casually leaning against a wall with a toothpick in his mouth- representing him as a typical ‘tough guy’ and that he doesn’t care about anything or anyone- so how will this affect the  film and its other characters? 

As we move onto one of the suspects in particular in the trailer- which is ‘Verbal’ Kint- we have an extreme close up/ high angle shot of him as he puts a hand to his face and appears to be deep in thought. As well as the high angle of the shot making him look vulnerable and perhaps a victim in the film (misleading much?!) the very useful slow zoom out of this shot of ‘Verbal’ insinuates to the audience that they are going into his thoughts and memories. It implies that some of the story in the film may be revealed told by ‘Verbal’ himself. But here’s the big question: will he tell us the truth? To reinforce ‘Verbal’s actual role in the film there is an interesting use of pan around the character as he talks- this reveals tot eh audience that the narrative of the film will literally revolve around ‘Verbal’ as he is the storyteller and whatever we hear about what happened we are likely to hear from him (it reinforces his importance in the film and makes the audience focus their attention upon him).

 To hype up the tension in the audience even more we have MORE reaction shots from characters- such as from the victim looking scared but the audience cannot see what he is reacting to and is therefore intrigued to know. And then a similar reaction shot from Hockney, which is also an extreme close up and furthermore heightens and establish the mysterious mood and element the film has and the film’s genre of thriller (making it easier in the long run for audiences to decide whether they’d like this film or not).

A low angle shot looking up at Agent Dave Kujan also suggests he is perhaps a powerful character and reinforces his determination to discover the truth and catch the criminal like all good heroes. But will his techniques let him be successful or will he perhaps abuse the power he has and end up not finding the killer anyway. Overall it hints to character conflicts as Kujan looks frustrated and annoyed and this makes the audience wonder why this is and what his anger may lead to…

And then there is a montage of A LOT of shots. Which I found quite tension building and mysterious as we can see a lot of things that occur throughout the film but they go so fast and are so muddled up that they make the audience tense and interested but tell them almost nothing….

There are extreme close ups of hands smashing car windows- this shows that crime will play a big role within the film (which is useful as crime is a big and usual convention of thriller films) and leads the audience to ask which characters are behind this crime, why and what repercussions it may have…

Interestingly there is a two shot of two of the suspects (Keaton and ‘Verbal’) in which we see one push the other against a wall in a quite violent manner. This hints there may be conflicts between some of these characters and the audience are intrigued to know why Keaton is treating ‘Verbal’ in this way and whether it will lead onto an actual fight or not….also, will this relationship change throughout the course of the film?

Keeping close to its genre there is then an extreme close up of a man as he walks away from a burning building- this shot occurs when ‘Keyser Soze’ is mentioned by a  character, so can the audience imply that he is a real character? And what does this shot imply? Is it a flashback, whose house did he burn down? Why? etc

A useful three shot of Hockney, McManus and Keaton shows them closely standing next to each other, as if defending one another- and this leads the audience to imply that the suspects stick together despite differences- but is this really true? Will they stick together? Or will something occur to disturb their new-found friendship. Keaton stood defiantly in front of the other two also hints that he may be the leader of the group of suspects, but will it stay this way or will conflicts with other characters in teh group change this? There are then midshots/reaction shots of these three very characters as they walk around what looks to be the boat we saw at the beginning of the trailer carrying weapons and looking around- but why do they have weapons? Does this imply someone will get killed? And what are they searching for? There is also a very atmospheric and tension building close up of Keaton as he holds a gun in his hand and stands in a dark room- he looks as if he is serious and tense- but why? And what will happen to him?

A brilliant and moving shot is of that of Agent Dave Kujan’s eyes- which is an extreme close up and a reaction shot as the audience can instantly tell from his eyes that he looks shocked, but they don’t know why. This naturally makes them want to watch on to see what he is reacting to and why he reacts as he does.

There is also a high angle over ‘Verbal’ as he looks scared and tearful- is he a victim? What is Kujan doing/saying to him that is making him react in this way? What does he know? Does he know the truth of what happened?

There is then an extreme close up of a pair of legs as the camera tracks the line of fire on the deck of the ship – but whose legs? Is someone dead? Who killed them? etc and also the tracking of the fire can connote the criminal behind it all- that no matter how hard we and other characters try, we cannot catch up with them, but will this be truthful of the film? Will the criminal be caught? Or will he be like fire and so powerful and quick that no one could ever catch him? The only way audiences can find out is to watch on…

There are also more extreme close-ups in the montage, building more tension about what may happen to the characters in the film (especially the suspects themselves)- like McManus’ eyes which look menacing and mysterious- making the audience wonder just what is going on and why he appears this way. And then a very useful extreme close up again as McManus puts a gun behind his back, insinuating suspicion, because he is hiding a weapon for a purpose (probably from another character- is he a villain) and also  connotes crime and leaves the audience tense as they know McManus has the gun but none of the other characters (except McManus of course) do.

The trailer then comes to a slower pace, with ‘Verbal’ revealing his deepest fears as well as talking about Keaton and Keyser Soze. This shows the audience that ‘Verbal’s account of what happened is likely to be the only way they will get the information (and this goes for the character of Dave Kujan too) and also raises a lot of questions the audience will want the answers to: Like who Keyser Soze and why ‘Verbal’ explains that he is the only thing he is afraid of. The slow zoom out of the ship symbolises the end of the trailer and is also useful for establishing to the audience that the film itself will be confusing as the trailer itself has even ended in the place and point where it began (which is similar to the actual film when I think about it…) 


I found the pace quite strange in this trailer as it did not seem very structured. Perhaps it’s trying to help show the audience that this film will not have a set pace as such-it won’t necessarily start at the equilibrium and finish at the restoration of it in any case..

Firstly the trailer does, as most trailers do also, start off at  a very slow pace. This helps the trailer open up to the audience and for initial and vital information to be displayed to them about the film without them getting in a muddle in the first five seconds (there’s plenty of room for that later). So this slow pace helps to establish the tension-building mood of the film and the location and characters also (so they get the basic and bare facts before being introduced to any deeper points about the film which could confuse them). However, the pace I think does get a little bit faster as it is revealed what has upset the equilibrium ( which is the 27 men being killed on a ship) and this builds tension as to what happened on the ship, whether Kujan will find the killer and whether there is more to this than meets the eye. The pace is still even quite slow when the audience is first introduced to the five suspects (and arguably main characters). This builds the tension as to who they are (as we only view them as a collective group at first and don’t really get introduced to them individually) and we want to know how they link in to what we have already heard/seen occur in the trailer.

As the pace gets a little faster this introduces the unique qualities of the crimes within the film tot eh audience, which will naturally make them eager to watch the film itself. But this soon slows down again as time shifts and the audience sees ‘Verbal’ will be a kind of narrator within the film. But the slow pace creates tension as they wonder why ‘verbal’ is having to explain what happened, how he knows about what happened (how was he involved) and what happened to the other characters. This slow pace also insinuates that a problem has disrupted the flow and narrative of the film- and as this happens when characters are speaking of the character Keyser Soze, this tells the audience he is an important character as he has power enough to slow down the pace of the trailer itself by the mentioning of him. This reinforces how the other characters react to the mentioning of his name or his presence within the film- building tension as to who he is and why everyone appears to be so afraid of him.

The pace then fastens a bit as tension builds between Kujan and ‘Verbal’- ‘Verbal’ seeming vulnerable and innocent, Kujan seeming frustrated and angry- the fast pace leads us to wonder what relationship these characters will have and whether ‘Verbal’ really does have the information Kujan and the audience to some extent want. And if he does, is he going to reveal it? The pace slows down once again at another mention of Keyser Soze (again reinforcing the character’s power and influence within the film, making the audience tense and eager to know who he is) and this time the slow pace allows the trailer to convey that Keyser Soze asks the suspects to do some kind of job for him and if they do, he will reward them greatly. This builds tension in the audience as they are left asking- what does Soze want from them? Will they do it? And if they do, will they be successful?

But int he montage the pace gets extremely fast- making the shots and dialogue quick and confusing- this way the audience only sees flashes and hints as to what will happen but are left not really sure of how it’ll all pan out. This reinforces that the film itself will be confusing and unpredictable, so audiences know if they wich to see the film itself, they will have to really concentrate if they want to understand it properly. But the pace slows down at the end, more establishing the end of the trailer than the restoration of the equilibrium (as we never really see this in the trailer as it’d give away the whole film and therefore be pointless!). This slow pace makes ‘Verbal’s little speech about Keyser Soze very tension building and really establishes the mood and atmosphere of the film as the audience is focused on what he says and nothing alone- nothing to distract them in terms of voice-over or music- just ‘Verbal’s words…(which also shows how he will effectively be like a narrator of the film itself)


I thought the dialogue of the trailer overall was very helpful for the audience. It helped hint to narrative points, character roles/types and build atmosphere and mood aswell…

The first piece of dialogue we hear is from Agent Dave Kujan. This initially establishes that his character is important to the film (because he’s the first properly introduced to the audience) and thus puts the audience’s attention upon what he says: ‘I wanna know why 27 men died on that pier for what looks to be ninety-one million dollars worth of d*pe that wasn’t there’ – this instantly gets across the character’s role within the film and his personality. It implies to the audience that Kujan is determined, clever and possibly a heroic figure of the film- as he just wants to discover the truth of what happened and get to the bottom of it all. And upon hearing about the 27 men dead and ninety-one million dollars worth of d*pe, the audience can possibly feel the same way as Kujan (and thus connect with this character), as it sounds mysterious and like there is something bigger and darker hidden behind it (which is portrayed by Kujan’s initial question that will stay in the audience’s mind).

Dean Keaton: ‘This whole thing’s a shake-up..and there’s no way they’d line up five fellens in the same row.’– Said by Keaton, this insinuates that the iconic ‘line-up’ of which five of the main characters are a part of was perhaps set-up. But who would possibly set this up? What motives would they have to do this? What is it’s purpose? And this also gives the audience information on the main characters of the film- that they are all previously convicted criminals- so that leaves them to ask- can we really trust any of them? And can they trust one another?

Translator: ‘He was in the harbour killing many men’– well this indicates that a lot of deaths/murders will occur in the film, again revealing the thriller genre (as murders are usually a convention of thriller films) and makes the audience very interested and gains their attention- who was killing many men? Why were they killing them? Will they get caught? (all questions that will make them carry on watching the trailer to try and find out the answers) 

Victim: ‘Keyser Soze!!’– Well this er, gives the audience a name to go by, a hint to who the murderer is, but who is Keyser Soze? And what relevance does he have to play in the film? How will this character’s presence affect the narrative/other characters?

(Not sure of this character but I’m sure he is an agent or detective of some kind): ‘He saw Keyser Soze??’– He sounds shocked and quite scared. But why? Who is this Keyser Soze? It makes the audience intrigued as they want to discover more and see this character’s true identity/why characters seem to be so scared of even the bare mention of his name…

Keaton:‘I’m a business man.’– As each suspect in the line-up is introduced to the audience properly, we hear them each speak a line which instantly and thoroughly presents what kind of character they are to the audience. For example, hearing this makes the audience feel that Keaton is successful and therefore will probably be a clever and powerful character within the film. But his determined and straight voice also makes it seem as though this is who he is and he is not willing to change. Not for anybody. But will this alter in the film itself? Is he even telling the truth? The audience can’t know for sure.

McManus: ‘There’s nothing that can’t be done.’ – This portrays to the audience that Michael McManus is a character who is full of spirit and has a fearless nature- but it also leads them to ask what he is talking about, how it relates to the film and whether he is right in his judgement…

Hockney: ‘You gotta team of monkey’s working around the clock on this?!’- Similarly, this tiny snippet of dialogue equally convey’s Hockney’s character to the audience- it reveals that the character is cocky and sarcastic- but this leads the audience to wonder whether his attitude will get the character into trouble in the film itself, will change due to the narrative or other characters etc

Fenster: ‘He’ll flip ya, flip ya for real.’– As well as portraying that Fenster has a strange accent (which prepares the audience for the film as they’ll have to try and listen carefully to what he is saying if they want to understand his contributions in the film). It also shows the audience that Fenster is a careless and laid-back character- which leads us to ask whether his character will perhaps change throughout the course of the film. Also- who is Fenster talking about and who is he talking to? It sounds as if he is threatening someone, but why? And who?

‘Verbal’ Kint: ‘It’s Roger really, people say I talk too much.’– And lastly ‘Verbal’s line tells us that he is perhaps a more timid and vulnerable character, which we can guess really more through the way he speaks and his childish way of apparently talking too much and hanging onto a nickname. But will he be a victim in the film itself, or will his character change and find a different role?

Detective (Sgt. Jeff Rabin): ‘He doesn’t know what you wanna know.’– Suggested to be talking about ‘Verbal’ and talking to Agent Kujan, this makes the audience wonder what the nature of the conversation is and whether he is right- does ‘Verbal’ know more than he appears to? Or does he, like this character suggests, not hold the key to the information Kujan is determined to get?

And Agent Dave Kujan’s answer to that bout of scepticism is: ‘I don’t think he does, not exactly. But there’s a lot more to his story, believe me…’ – this again, leads the audience to predict that Kujan’s character will be the hero of the film, as he is determined to discover the truth even if the witness he has (Verbal) doesn’t have the information he wants. Therefore indicating he’ll use whatever he has, whatever is necessary, to discover the culprit and furthermore, the truth of what happened. But the audience are still left wondering- will he be successful? Will he find the truth? And what more does ‘Verbal’ have to his story? Does this hint that he knows more than he lets on perhaps?

And then there is a very useful and atmospheric piece of mixed dialogue from ‘Verbal’ and the victim- which is interesting because they are both talking about the same thing- Keyser Soze (Verbal describing him while the victim is literally seen to come into the contact with Keyser Soze- whoever he is) and this builds up the tension of the identity of Keyser Soze and how he will affect the film. ‘Verbal’ Kint: ‘The greatest trick the devil ever pulled…’ -talking about the devil insinuates Kesyer Soze is a villainous and evil character (after all you can’t get much more evil than the devil himself)- but why? What has he done to make his evil nature apparent to characters? And talking about great tricks also implies that the character is clever and is perhaps misleading and sluethful- so will Kujan catch Soze? Or will he be tricked by him like all the rest? (I’d also like to add that mentioning the Devil also indicates the film itself will have a Good Vs. Evil theme- the question is though, who will win??)

Victim: ‘He’s here!!!- Quickly switching to the victim, looking scared beyond belief as he stands alone in a room. It builds tension as we know that the victim is talking about this Keyser Soze, the same as ‘Verbal’ is, but why is Soze there? And why has his apparent presence evoked such a fearful reaction in this character? Also, how can the victim be sure Soze is there?

‘Verbal’ Kint: ‘…was convincing the world…’– convincing? This insinuates that Soze is a clever character and a hard one to catch. If he convinces the whole world of something he’d have to be after all- so how does he do this? And what does he convince them of? <- this is what makes the audience want to watch on and see what ‘Verbal’ is talking about and how it links to the film.

Victim: ‘I know he’s here!’– How does he know? This builds more tension still- as it hints that Keyser Soze has indeed arrived at the place where the victim is. But why? And will he find this character? What will he do to him if he finds him? Is there a reason why the victim seems so scared and sure that Keyser Soze is there? 

‘Verbal’ Kint: ‘…he didn’t exist.’– Again, this indicates more about the character of Keyser Soze. So we realise that he is widely regarded as a non-existent character- but what has he done to make the world believe this? Does he really exist or is he just really a made-up character, a fantasy? This is what makes the audience want to watch on and see what happens/whether we find out any more about Keyser Soze and whether he is a real person or just a made up fairy tale.

Dave Kujan: ‘I’m smarter than you, and I’m gonna find out what I wanna know whether you like it or not.’- As well as further heightening Kujan’s determined and strong character, this can also have quite a negative effect (on his heroic character anyway). He seems like he is intimidating ‘Verbal’- thus making ‘Verbal’ seem like a vulnerable character that is being somewhat bullied into giving Kujan information. This makes the audience sympathize with ‘Verbal’ and they want to see what Kujan will actually do to him and whether he’ll give in and tell Kujan what he knows after all (if he does indeed know anything). It also leads the audience to ask if Kujan will get what he wants from ‘Verbal’ or whether this character will possibly try and fight back? And if he does, will this lead to a character conflict? 

Kobayashi: ‘I work for Keyser Soze. He feels you owe him. He does not expect all of you to live, but those of you who do will have ninety-one million dollars.’– Firstly leads the audience to ask, who is this character? This also convinces the audience more that Keyser Soze is  a real character and not just some made up fantasy. But one thing that isn’t answered is why do the five suspects owe Soze? What have they done to be in debt to him? Kobayashi’s words also insinuate some of the five will die- leading to audience interest growing- who will die? And how will they die if they do? And also, what is Soze asking them (well, making them) do? Will the suspects be successful and get the money as a reward? Or is there something deeper here that is being hidden from the audience and the characters also? 

‘Verbal’ Kint: ‘It was Keyser Soze, Agent Kujan, I mean the devil himself.’- Again, referencing to the devil= which is overall the biggest surreal and evil character he could possibly compare Soze to. Biggest of all villains, No mercy at all etc and so this gains more interest in the audience as to Soze’s character and why he is constantly compared to the devil himself. Also, from what ‘Verbal’ says, can we suggest he came into contact with Soze in some way?? And how did this happen exactly? Will it affect the film at all?

Victim: ‘I’m telling you it’s Keyser Soze!!!’- As well as making the audience scared and tense, this leads them to wonder whether these characters are telling the truth about Soze. It also makes us eager to know who this Keyser Soze really is- which will ultimately lead to them wanting to see the film itself as that is the only way they’ll ever really find out…

Dean Keaton:‘There is no Keyser Soze!’- Well this suggests character conflicts within the film as Keaton appears angry and firm- showing he believes Soze doesn’t really exist. This dialogue is useful for building tension as well as introducing a lot of questions for the audience to ask about the film, like: why doesn’t he believe Soze is real? Is he right? Will other characters agree with him or retaliate to his words? etc

And lastly we have ‘Verbal’ Kint’s moving and atmospheric piece of dialogue to end on, which is:‘Keaton always said ‘I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him’. Well, I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.’- And this builds a lot of tension in the audience a lot as ‘Verbal’ is comparing the fear he has of Soze to that of an unholy man’s fear of God himself. It reveals the idea that you can still be scared of something you don’t believe or feel is real- that the fact it appears so surreal makes it all the more frightening. This also interestingly portrays Keaton’s and ‘Verbal’s strong relationship within the film- that ‘Verbal’ admires Keaton and sticks with him more than the other suspects. But why do they have a strong relationship, and will this alter in the film itself? (and if it does, how?).

Voice over…

Unfortunately there was a voice-over in this trailer. And quite a long one too…But I have to admit, it does have its uses- and is used very effectively here to introduce the main characters of the film, give hints to the plot and add to the atmosphere and mood of the trailer itself…

The voice over begins before any of the dialogue is spoken, saying: ‘Usually, when there is a crime, there is a motive…’- cleverly using the word ‘Usually’ I think catches the audience’s attention straight away- because it is indicating this film is unique and not like all the others, and is also linking in to the title of the film. This also hints to narrative and genre as the audience is instantly given the idea that the film will deal with crime, which is quite a large convention of the thriller genre. This will also allow the audience to ask many questions, such as- what crime are they talking about?

‘Usually, when there is a line-up, there’s only one real suspect…’- Repeating the word ‘usually’ has a good effect. It carries on the idea that this film is different and intrigues the viewer as they want to know how this film is unique to any other. Talking about suspects also begins to make the audience tense as they are introduced tot he characters in the line-up and they instantly begin to wonder who the guilty one is.

‘But this is not the usual crime….’- Literally the voice-over tells the audience that the crime committed is not the ‘usual crime’ and this makes them ask why this is so and makes them want to watch on…

‘This is not the usual motive…’– It makes the audience ask- why not? What motives does the criminal has? Why are these unusual? Overall it makes the audience want to watch on and see what is actually going on and why the film appears so unique.

‘And these are not the usual suspects….’– Why not? But this introduces the main characters of the film as a collective group of five and the idea that they are all different to the usual suspects you’d expect- but the audience will wonder, how?

‘Keaton…’– the voice-over, teamed with midshots and close-ups of this character, introduces him properly to the audience and gets across the type of character he plays within the film (clever and precise).

‘McManus…’– Again, the voice-over helpfully introduces the character of  Michael McManus and lets us make an assumption for ourselves what kind of character he is (a little insane and tough)

‘Hockney…’– Introduces us again to another of the ‘usual suspects’ – this time to Todd Hockney, who we get an impression of in this short time as to what kind of character he’ll be (careless and sarcastic)

‘Fenster…’– And again with Fred Fenster, the voice-over introduces his character and sets up what we can expect from him in the film itself (Laid back and reckless)

‘Verbal Kint…’- And lastly, but certainly not least- we are introduced to suspect no.5- Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint. And we instantly get the idea of what kind of character he’ll be too (Vulnerable and crippled). But is it right for the audience to assume what kind of characters these 5 will be from this minimal information? Afterall they are the most vital characters to the story, so could the trailer be deceiving them a little? (personally I think they are with one or two characters)

‘In a world where nothing is what it seems…’- Again, selling the story to the audience as it appears as if the film will be everything they least expected and will be shocking with lots of twists and turns in the plot. It also insinuates mystery and therefore successfully gets the genre of thriller directly across to the audience.

‘You’ve got to look beyond the usual suspects…’– And lastly, this hints to the audience that the film will be very clever and complex- leaving them to judge for themselves about whether they’d like to see the film or not or whether it’d be the right film for them (as to fully understand it, the voice-over explains that they’ve got to watch very very closely and focus their attention upon it or they won’t understand it at all. Which is very true.). It also conveys the mystery element of the film as it insinuates that the truth is hidden beneath the ‘surface’ of the film and to truly discover what is going on, audiences will have to read between the lines and watch carefully- indicating the thriller genre of the film as well as leaving the audience to decide whether they’d enjoy a film as complicated as this or not.

Special Effects…

Well viewing the trailer as a whole I wouldn’t say special effects were really THAT vital or impressive. The only ones I noticed or thought were effective at least were the following-

All of the fire basically. The explosions on the boat were pretty interesting as for the audience to see the swelling flames that engulf the ship it is effective as it really hints that the character/criminal behind these crimes is truly despicable (and out of control, like fire itself) and they begin to wonder whether he can be caught.

Also, another good use of fire in the special effects category is the police car on fire, connoting the film’s very rigid theme of Good Vs Evil (i.e. Cops versus Criminals) 

Other than those I’ve mentioned I’d say the fact the effects weren’t that displayed is because the trailer is trying to get across tot he audience that ‘The Usual Suspects’ is different. I doesn’t rely on special effects to tell the story because it already has a story so unique and brilliant that special effects as such aren’t required to do that job. Also, if there are going to be big gun shootouts and need for special effects within the film it makes no sense to show them in the trailer as you are therefore showing audiences the ‘best parts’ of your film and also this way, it can build tension to what will happen in the film itself as the trailer doesn’t display much violence/shootings etc.

Credits & Intertitles…


 Well, I was a bit disappointed with the titles as they DO get across a lot of good USPs to persuade audience’s to watch the film (through actors featuring in the film) but were a bit plain and simple. All of them being white in a quite bold and simple font…

‘The Usual Suspects’ – maybe the white could connote innocence of certain characters within the film but maybe this and the plain font used could be contradictory to how unusual the film itself is- that it isn’t like any other but the audience will have to look deeper to actually see this (on the surface it looks simple but if you go deeper it really isn’t…)

And then the following actors names to give the audience some USPs which will persuade them to want to go and see the film. Overall I find the placing of the names interesting as having seen the film itself I know that all of the actors who play criminals in the film have their names placed in the corner of the screen while those who play ‘good’ characters like Kujan, have their name placed in the middle to indicate this perhaps…

‘Stephen Baldwin’

‘Gabriel Byrne’

‘Chazz Palminteri’

‘Kevin Pollak’

‘Pete Poslethwaite’

‘Benicio Del Toro’

‘Kevin Spacey’ 


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