Written by Graham Moore and Johnathan McClain and directed by the former, The Outfit centers around Leonard: an elite cutter who makes clothing for a family of gangsters. When Leonard finds himself tangled up in the family’s mess, we learn there may be more to them — and Leonard — than meets the eye.
The Outfit is a master of economy: of space, of time, and of characters. Also, the film is set inside of one location — a tailor shop in Chicago. Then, the story is told over a period of just a few days, and with only a handful of roles. It makes sense that this film was shot during the pandemic. However, these limitations never feel like they impede or detract from the story. On the contrary, they amp up the sense of urgency, tension, and intimacy.
The Writing and Directing
The twists and turns are unexpected yet logical. While they’re surprising, you don’t get lost in the reversals and reveals, which is a testament to the sharp writing. The last few minutes do feel as if they begin to veer off the rails a little, bordering dangerously close to unintentionally campy territory. But overall, the complex plot works and feels fresh. The film is sure to keep you guessing at every turn, culminating in a satisfying conclusion.
The Outfit is highly stylized. From the first moment, you feel immersed in the glossy, dark world of crime and gangs in the 1950s. The juxtaposition of the city’s fast-moving seedy underbelly and the slow, precise nature of Leonard’s work is compelling. It’s especially mesmerizing when the two worlds collide. Graham Moore’s expert direction builds a sense of danger and suspense at every turn. Combined with Dick Pope’s stunning, gritty cinematography, as well as the subtle performances. The film is sophisticated and a lot of fun.
Speaking of the performances, Mark Rylance’s (Ready Player One) masterful embodiment of Leonard anchors the film. He feels reminiscent of Benoit Blanc from Knives Out, using his intelligence and quick thinking to stay one step ahead. Zoey Deutch (Zombieland: Double Tap) continues to prove why she’s one of the most versatile and talented young actors today. The range she shows as Mabel is impressive and captivating.
One of the most intriguing parts of the film is the relationship between these two. Blurring the lines between a pseudo-father-daughter relationship and mentor/protégée dynamic, the care and concern they have for each other is beautiful and something rarely explored.
The rest of the cast — including Dylan O’Brien (Maze Runner) as the young, entitled Richie, Johnny Flynn as the explosive Francis, and Simon Russell Beale as imposing mob boss Roy — is solid as well. They all play their roles to perfection, working seamlessly together — and sometimes seamlessly against each other, too.
If you’re in the mood for a smart drama with mystery, finesse, and a shocking amount of heart, odds are you’ll enjoy the smooth, swift ride The Outfit takes you on.