Modern Day Film Noir- ‘The Usual Suspects’ review…

‘The Usual Suspects’ is an example of Modern day Film Noir, known as neo-noir films since 1960’s. As i have already seen it I decided to watch it again and refresh my memory. This is what i thought..

WHAT A GENIUS FILM! At first i wasn’t sure about it as its from 1995 but after watching it for the second time I could still watch it again and again. The film was directed by Brian Singer and on box office made an impressive $34.4 million.

It features a group of local criminals known as Dean Keaton portayed by Gabriel Byrne who is an ex criminal trying to turn over a new leaf due to his new lawyer girlfriend. Next is Roger kint a crippled character who tells their unique story throughout the film brought to life by Kevin Spacey. The third of the group is Michael Mcmanus, portrayed by Stephen Baldwin. He’s the local ‘bad boy’ who’s up for any job comes his way! His partner in crime is Fred Fenster brought to us by Benicio Del Toro. He’s iconically known for his wierd accent and adds comedy value to the whole film! The fifth and final member of the group is Todd Hockney portrayed by Kevin Pollak. its all about the money for Todd, if theres something in it for him- he’s in!

The film starts at the end with keaton being shot by a mysterious character we later find out is ‘keysor Soze’ a ruthless man thought to be capable of the worst possible crimes. As the group do one job it leads onto another and they find themselves in California, whilst there a man comes to them called Mr Kobayashi who claims to be Keyser Soze’s right hand man. He gives them a job, one that they are not all likely to come out of alive and claims they have to do it to repay debt’s they unknowingly have got into with Soze. We find all this out as we go back and forward in time to when Kint, as the only survivor is being interviewed by the police. 4 of the 5 then get told by Kobayashi to go to a cliff side spot where they find Freds body, they bury him and realise Soze means business- if they don’t do the job they will all be killed.

They find the job is on a ship and go in guns blazing- Dean Keaton tells Roger to stay behind and to tell his girlfriend he loves her if he doesnt make it. The scene then goes back to the beginning with keaton being killed which was horrible!! Keaton was my favourite character and he gets killed! The police officer listening to Roger tell the story is convinced that Dean Keaton IS Keyser Soze but Roger Kint says he cant be. He gets up and walks out. As the police officer is thinking the story through he spots words on the board behind him- words Roger had used as names for the people in his story! As we see him race out looking for ‘the cripple’ the camera pans round to Roger stretching out his ‘crippled’ hand, standing up straight and lighting a cigarettes. He then gets in the car with Kobayashi. This was a brilliant twist to a brilliant film as he is Keyser Soze. I would give this film 5/5 and although at first i was dubious about watching it i’m so glad I did and would recommend it to anyone!

The film noir elements I particularly noticed was the lighting. the whole way through it is either extremely high key or extremely low key. These are generic conventions of film noir. A big film noir feature the film was missing was a ‘Femme fatale.’ Instead the antagonist was a male character.

Looking Into Film Noir!




Film Noir, the google definition: a style of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace.

Pessimism: a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen.

Fatalism: the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable.

Menace: a person or thing that is likely to cause harm; a threat or danger.

So, looking into film noir started off as a challenge with all the big words, so I broke down the definition and figured it out for myself. Here is what I came up with:

Film Noir is a type of film that uses technical aspects of cinematography. You can identify a Film Noir film if there is a negative atmosphere that assumes the worst will happen, and there is nothing that can be done to change them. There is also usually someone that is a threat to the other characters and is likely to harm them. The idea behind the aesthetics of Film Noir is that you could pause a film at any time and take a beautiful picture- it is art.

History of Film Noir

The term ‘Film Noir’ was determined by french film critics in 1946. It fully emerged during WW2 when Germans such as Fritz Lang brought ‘German Expressionist Cinema’ to America. 

Some More on Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang was born in Austria on the 5th December 1890. He then died in Beverly Hills on the 2nd August 1976. From 1910 til 1914 he travelled to Europe and studied painting in Paris and eventually enrolled in the army in 1915. He got badly injured in 1916 and began to write and so then left the army in early 1918. He got a job as an actor before accepting a job as a writer, going on to write and direct for some time. In 1920 he began dating an actress and writer Thea von Harbou. She was the inspiration for and co writer of some of Lang’s best work.

Conventions of Film Noir

  • Typically set in abandoned area’s.
  • Dark, gloomy and foggy.
  • Mysterious and dangerous atmosphere.
  • Costumes include guns, trilby hats, trench coats, suits and ties, cigarettes, red lipsticks, polished shoes.
  • Jazz music.
  • Characters include: Detective, Fem me Fatal , corrupt police, gangsta’s, protagonist, hero’s, criminals.
  • Shot’s through shutters/blinds.
  • Low key lighting.
  • Shot’s through mirrors/frosted glass.
  • Low angles, high angles and cantered angles.
  • Shadows.
  • Silhouette.
  • Ominous facial expressions.
  • rural locations.
  • Bars/clubs.
  • Docks/ seaside/ promenade.
  • Urban locations.
  • Police stations.
  • Alley ways/ empty streets.
  • Themes include love. betrayal, greed, jealousy, lust, revenge, corruption, murder, sex, justice.
  • Voice over narration.
  • fast forwards and flashbacks.
  • Elliptical.
  • First person narrative.
  • Good cop, bad cop routine.

Fem me fatal:

A mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.



My Chosen Brief!

The brief I had decided to do is….. AUDIO!

Immediately after hearing this brief for the first time I more or less knew it was the one I wanted to carry out, then after doing more research into it my decision was made final. Being a student that loves the arts and music and performing myself, I feel this is the option where I can really use my skills.

I also feel I will enjoy carrying out this brief more than I would the others. This is something I learned from AS last year, it is so important to enjoy what you are creating and have a passion for it! I love all music and the stories that come with it so I am really looking forward to creating my music video.

The real media products I also explored during my research of the briefs really helped me to make my decision. I feel a music video gives me more of an opportunity to use a range of editing and camera techniques more than the other possible briefs would. This is because they would require limited camera angles and basic cuts etc however I’ve got more freedom with the editing with the a music video and I really excited to explore it!

Brief #4- Audio!

The 4th and final brief I have been given is an audio brief. It includes a promotion package for the release of an album, this should consist of a music promo video and 2 of the following:

  • An album cover for the release in the form of a CD package.
  • A magazine advertisement for the album release.
  • A website homepage for the band.

I am really interested in this brief therefore did some extra research into professional music videos.



Additionally , as I really liked the look of this brief I looked into some students work from last year and these were my favourites:

Brief #3- Film Trailer!

Another option I have got is to make a film trailer. This is a promotion package for a new film including a teaser trailer and 2 of the following:

  • A film magazine front cover which features the film.
  • A film poster for the film.
  • A website homepage for the film.

In order to get some inspiration for this topic I looked at some professional film trailers shown below:


Brief #2- Advertising!

The second option I have for this year is an advertising package for a new product or service which includes 2 advertisements in addition to 2 of the following:

  •  A TV program sponsorship sequence.
  • A radio advertisement.
  • A web pop up.

I looked at some real media TV adverts to see what inspiration I could gain from them. Here is what I found:




Brief #1- Short Film!

The first option to explore is the possibility of creating a short film. If I were to choose this brief, it states the video can be up to 5 minutes long. I could follow the route of an animation or a live action film- or combine the 2 together. Along with the final product I would also have to make 2 of the following 3 options:

  • A film poster.
  • A film magazine review page that features my film.
  • A homepage on a website for the film.

I decided to explore some real examples of short films and these were some of my favourites:



Additionally I also looked into some student examples: