The Outfit Synopsis: Leonard (Mark Rylance) is an English tailor who used to craft suits on London’s world-famous Savile Row. After a personal tragedy, he’s ended up in Chicago, operating a small tailor shop in a rough part of town where he makes beautiful clothes for the only people around who can afford them: a family of vicious gangsters.
As an unassuming tailor operating in mob-ridden Chicago during the 1950s, Leonard illustrates himself as a man of exacting precision. He slices cloth and stitches it together with sincere appreciation for his craft, habitually dedicating himself to his day-to-day grind without a tinge of pretensions for grandeur.
Under his posh exterior, though, Leonard possesses his own share of surprising secrets as one ordinary night morphs into a power-play between mafiosos. Oscar-winning Imitation Game Screenwriter Graham Moore digs into the character and his nefarious mobster clientele with his directorial debut, The Outfit. Tailored in the image of stagey, old-fashioned thrillers, Moore crafts an arresting, high-wire narrative tightrope, a balancing act that consistently compels despite some bumps along the road.
Entrapping viewers in the tight confines of an illustrious tailor shop, Moore’s aesthetics unabashedly conjures the theatrical intrigue of an evolving stageplay. The screenwriter-turned-director utilizes the narrative constraints to his advantage, deploying a slew of dynamic edits and snappy score choices to construct a lingering sense of unease. The Outfit never screams out to audiences through its stylistic choices. Moore displays an assured command of the material similar to Leonard’s calculating precision as a tailor.
The single-room approach never feels like a hindrance to the film and its objectives. As one hectic night gets increasingly more volatile, Moore and co-writer Jonathan McClain feed audiences enough textured details to paint a vibrant picture of the fractured mob ecosystem. An old-school mafia aesthetic can certainly feel cheesy in the wrong hands, but the duo displays a knack for sharp interchanges and reflective speeches to convey our cunning characters. The dog-eats-dog environment also serves as a perfect playground for our enigmatic protagonist. Leonard is a well-traveled tailor who always seems to be one step ahead of this unraveling situation. At its best, the film builds an unraveling narrative while slowly stitching together Leonard’s backstory in a well-designed arc.
The Outfit and its dialogue-driven approach would not work without a skilled cast. Oscar-winning character actor Mark Rylance captivates as Leonard, displaying suave poise and coy intellect as a timid tailor. It’s also a joy to see the usual supporting player grab the spotlight in a role well-tuned to his versatile skillset as an actor. Dylan O’Brien, Johnny Flynn, and Simon Russell Beale radiate the charismatic smarm and foreboding menace as the mobster clientele – while Zoey Deutch develops a strong presence onscreen as Leonard’s loyal secretary.
I credit Moore for crafting an engaging yarn with his debut, but his film’s successes are somewhat sleight. Attempts at characterizing Leonard and company’s emotional undertones fall by the wayside as the plotting evolves at a breakneck pace. The compelling mystery makes the lack of nuance palatable to endure until the intrigue starts to run out of gas. The Outfit ends up taking a misguided leap of faith in its final ten minutes, twisting and turning the well-built foundation into a conclusion that’s equally confused and predictable.
For what it is, The Outfit works as a sharp and refined thriller ripped straight out of a bygone era.
The Outfit is now playing in theaters.
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