Sound has several dimensions which one can infer from the movie The Usual Suspects (Larsen 18). One of the most important dimensions of sound is rhythm. It involves pulse or beat, tempo or pace, and pattern accents. Rhythm is the most easily recognizable feature in music of the film. Therefore, tempo, beat and accent are the basic compositional features.
Various characters in the movie can be identified without seeing their faces because of the sound rhythm, which can be easily recognized by the voice prints (McQuarrie 13). These voice prints show not only amplitudes and frequencies, but also distinct patterns of syllabic stress and pacing.
In the movie, speech rhythm is left entirely to the discretion of the performers, although the sound editor might have manipulated it during the dubbing stage. The sound effects also have rhythm. For instance, the fire of a machine gun creates a regular and rapid beat while the sporadic reports from a pistol can come at irregular intervals. The rhythm of images also came in handy in the movie. The short shots help to create a rapid tempo while the longer shots slowed down the rhythm (McQuarrie 17). Sound fidelity is also superb in the movie, especially in regard to its source. In cases where there is unfaithful sound, it has been placed there to perform dramatic functions.
The Usual Suspects commences with the day after a bloody massacre was committed in San Pedro harbor inside a freighter. As the movie continues, one can see the effects of various sound types. When it comes to film making, sound and light play an essential role. They provide details of both suspense and the characters. Without it, a movie will never be the same.
Director Bryan Singer has done a great job with both the light and sound (Larsen 24). Most of the scenes in the movie would have had very sharp cuts if not for sound effects which help to accentuate the cuts. Sound usage in the movie is superb as it gives the movie effects of action, sorrow, suspense and drama. The marvelous musical sequence results in a combination of camera movements, melody, lyrics, performance and choreography, and produces a magical effect.
The main component of the last five minutes of The Usual Suspects is a brief realization which lasts less than two minutes. It was designed to inform viewers about the secret which lies behind the film that was just watched (McQuarrie 19). The story Kujan was told by Kint is untrue. The flashback scenes like the botched up car and park robbery might seem as truthful and real as the scenes of interrogation which happened in the film. However, they could never have occurred as viewers saw them (Larsen 28). Therefore, the thriller genre makes one be expectant of a last minute denouement composed of red herrings, loose ends and surprises that happen most of the time.
Singer gives viewers a handful of clues pertaining to the deception until the film comes to the last few minutes. Here, one can realize that speech was used in the dialogue to mislead viewers. Singer uses the dying minutes of the movie to illustrate how Kint skillfully wove the narration. These clues are shown as Kujan sees them on the wall (McQuarrie, 23). Therefore, this recapitulation ends up revealing those lies which Kint has told.
Further viewers know where he got the ideas for these lies. Apart from the visual cuts, we realize that the sound track is similarly fractured. It cuts between various excerpts from the interrogation and the key snatches of dialogue from the flashbacks (Larsen 33). Consequently, one can find non-diegetic music which is both hypnotic and repetitive on the sound track. At main points, Singer shows those instances where Kint lied pertaining to characters and places within the story.
The first is in shots 9-13, then Redfoot (22-27), Guatemala (33-34) and lastly Kobayashi (54-56). Every time an audio excerpt from the flashback can be heard on the sound track, with one of the characters repeatedly mentioning a name and then viewers are shown it in an extreme close-up. These back word references are meant to remind that what people see are Kujan’s interrogatory memories.
When the sequence comes to an end (shots 54-56), Kujan’s realization was completed. The soundtrack which is heard at the beginning of 56 shot is a flashback to an earlier point of the interrogation, where one can find Kujan saying to Klint “convince me, convince me.” Ironically, Klint did exactly the same, but not with truth but lies. This shot is a zoom which ends with the name that almost spreads on the entire screen (McQuarrie 27). It lasts almost 6 seconds, and it is so far the longest within the sequence.
The viewer can experience a clear sense that the climax is approaching not only in long visual zoom, but also in the heightening crescendo of the sound tracks of non-diegetic music (Larsen, 26). When one sees the end of the 56th shot, Singer has to achieve two things - everything has been revealed. The first thing is to reverse the time dilation effect which has already taken place so as to make the time flow at the normal rate.
The other one is to drag viewers out of the mind of Kujan and hence show the happenings in the present objective time. These are achieved by combining camera and sound effects. The music ends suddenly with an explosive and violent chord, which happens right at the end of the shot. The two events remove us from the trance-like state which the sequence has lulled viewers into. In fact, the attendant whip pan is so violent to the extent that the room becomes just a blur. One can see Kujan also as a blur, like a superman while blundering out of the room.
The sound track is both mysterious and very moving. The use of string instruments and especially the violin is ingenious. On the one hand, it leaves a person with a sense of urgency, and on the other hand, becomes very uplifting (McQuarrie, 29). The piano was also played in a beautiful way. When the oboe and the flute are incorporated, a sense of peacefulness permeates but it may even result into getting sad feelings. It is so hard to describe making it one of the best soundtracks in a movie.