DIRECTOR: Graham Moore

CAST: Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, Johnny Flynn, Simon Russell Beale, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Alan Mehdizadeh

RUNNING TIME: 106 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: In 1950s Chicago, a suit maker (Rylance) gets caught in the middle of a gangster situation…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Since winning the Oscar for his screenplay to The Imitation Game, Graham Moore has taken his sweet time returning to the world of film. In between that time, he’s written and published a couple of books (one of which is apparently set to be adapted by Moore, with Morten Tyldum once again directing), but with his ultimate big-screen return with The Outfit – which also marks the writer’s feature directorial debut – it appears he also had a stab at writing a play. This is because the movie has a number of playwriting hallmarks, from the singular location to the limited number of characters to the reliance on dialogue over visuals, making it easy to envision this being performed on stage as much as it is easy to watch on a screen.

However, The Outfit manages to overcome a number of its stagey limitations by producing a thrilling, unpredictable story with some neatly-tailored performances and strong dialogue to make this a compelling chamber piece.

Set in 1956 Chicago, the film takes place almost entirely within the shop of Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance), a cutter – and not a tailor, as he repeatedly specifies – who makes suits for various customers, including the ruthless gangsters who dominate the neighbourhood. Leonard’s only companion is his receptionist Mable (Zoey Deutch), who is eager to escape from the confides of Leonard’s shop and travel, while everyone else mainly uses his shop as a stash house for their dirty money. One night, Leonard is startled to find two gangsters – Francis (Johnny Flynn) and Richie (Dylan O’Brien), the latter being the son of mafia boss Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale) – showing up at his shop, with Richie badly injured from a gunshot wound. Forced to nurse Richie back to health, Leonard then sets into motion events that will change – and maybe even end – a number of lives over the course of the night.

Although we never leave this shop during the film’s entirety, there is so much depth to The Outfit with its story and characters that extends far beyond its walls. Moore is a strong storyteller with a great taste for dialogue that drip-feeds you everything you need to know about certain characters without feeling overdone, and from a directorial standpoint he is also effective at planting little visual cues to hint at certain characters’ true allegiances, whether it’s the slightest of reactions or facial tics. You can tell that Moore and his actors are having a lot of fun playing around with this tense situation as it gradually unfolds, which leaves you curious as to how it’s eventually going to end for its multiple characters who come in and out of the picture at regular intervals. The journey towards that eventual endpoint is highly engaging, because Moore has crafted a story with enough twists and turns to leave you unsure of where things are going, and with characters who have a lot of neat layers to them, despite how they may appear or act on the outside.

Leading the fiery ensemble is Mark Rylance who, in almost the exact opposite of his lovable underdog in The Phantom of the Open, revels in his character’s quick cunning skills to manipulate gangsters against each other, rip off dangerous individuals, and somewhere in the middle making some rather snazzy suits. Rylance commands the screen at all times, but is generous enough to allow other actors to shine just as brightly; Zoey Deutch has some great character moments, as do Johnny Flynn and Dylan O’Brien, while veterans like Simon Russell Beale and Nikki Amuka-Bird leave sizeable impressions in the short amounts of time they’re on-screen. It’s a strong ensemble because, beyond Rylance, you can see just about any of these characters leading their own movie, because they’re written to be interesting enough and acted so well that you instantly want prequel after prequel to go further into who these people are and what they’re made of.

It’s a great welcome back for Graham Moore, who between his excellent screenplay for The Imitation Game and now The Outfit is a creative force to be reckoned with. It’ll be truly interesting to see where he takes his career next, but hopefully it won’t take him another eight years to do more good for the screen.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Outfit is a solid gangster thriller that overcomes its play-like qualities with strong writing and direction by Graham Moore, and a solid ensemble cast led by Mark Rylance that breathe plenty of life into some three-dimensional characters.

The Outfit is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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