47 Years of Student Run Cinema
Student Film Society of the Year 2002, 2005, 2006
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Bryan Singer, USA 1995, 105 minutes
One of the most talked-about films of recent years, Bryan Singer's labyrinthine crime pic boasts knockout performances, slick camerawork and one of the most inspired twists in cinema history.
Although the basic setup concerns a group of criminals who team up for a heist which goes horribly wrong, this is no Reservoir Dogs. This film operates on an altogether different, altogether higher level.
Opening with a dockside shooting and explosion, the film then cuts backwards to try and explain what happened, showing the complex series of events leading up to the shooting. We learn in flashback that it all started about six weeks previously with five criminals meeting in a line-up and deciding to join forces on a job. Soon, however, the five find that all is not as it appears and that they are way in over their heads in something they don't understand.
We cross-cut repeatedly from the flashbacks, to the man who is narrating them. One of the five, Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) managed to escape the dockside massacre only to be picked up by the police. Kint is having his brains picked by Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) in an interrogation room and everything he tells Cujan we see in flashback. He tells of how the five of them discovered they were mere pawns in a game, being manipulated from on high by the elusive, legendary criminal mastermind Keyser Sozä. Much of the flashback action concerns itself with the group's attempts to work out who Sozä is and what he wants with them. The whole atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust is superbly maintained by a razor-sharp script and charismatic, cocksure performances from the leads and a brooding score by John Ottman.
Film theory dissertations will be written about this film's ending and its implications. Don't try too hard to spot it coming, just sit back, pay attention and enjoy a true modern noir masterpiece.
"A film that borders on the genius *****" - Empire
Review by Ben Stephens
Taken from EUFS Programme 1996-97