“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
Growing up in the 1990s I realise I may be a little biased, but I consider that decade one of the strongest for American cinema. The Usual Suspects was, for me, the peak of this time. Best known for the two things for which it justifiably won two Academy Awards – those being Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor – the story is told in flashbacks as Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey), the sole survivor of a freighter explosion, is interrogated by police.
Enter the name Keyser Soze, not only within the film’s narrative but into the world of pop culture in general; a mysterious crime lord whom few people have ever seen. Those who’ve heard of him speak his name in fear. Even those who don’t believe he exists greet any suggestion of his involvement with trepidation and wariness. Such is his mythical presence and power, whether based on actual fact or not.
Of course the film’s famous final scene is what throws everything up in the air. It is revealed that Kint himself was an untrustworthy narrator; most of the story (or perhaps all of it) seemingly his fabrication, mixed with just enough necessary facts to be convincing. We really have no way of knowing how much of his story is true; but it is the only version we see.
It is Kint who tells the story of Keyser Soze, using the quote above when describing him. In the end, my reading of the situation is that it’s a double bluff; Soze is Verbal Kint’s creation, rather than the other way around, and the idea of the character becomes, arguably like the devil himself, a myth. The devil’s greatest trick may indeed have been convincing the world he didn’t exist, but more impressive is he who creates a convincing devil in the first place.