Graham Moore’s The Outfit has more twists and turns than a sewing pattern and is just as intricately constructed as the finest bespoke suit. Set in Chicago in the 1950s, The Outfit is an ingenious one-location mystery that slowly unravels over the course of two nights.
Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) is an English cutter—not a tailor—who operates a tailor shop in the middle of a mob-run corner of the city. The film’s title is a clever double entendre, both paying homage to Leonard’s occupation as a tailor who makes outfits and to “The Outfit,” which rose to power in Chicago during the 1920s.COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Chicago seems like an odd place for a man who used to work along the world-famous Savile Row to find himself, but he has made a new life there. He largely keeps to himself in his shop, content to just sit and craft his suits while the mob utilizes his business as a drop-off spot. Leonard is largely safe in the midst of the chaos around him as the Irish mobster Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale) is his oldest customer and a man who is intellectually his equal. He’s been there long enough to learn the rules—keep your head down and don’t ask questions.
He isn’t alone in the shop, as he has Mabel (Zoey Deutch) who minds his telephone, folds pocket squares, and handles his customers. Including the customers who come to the shop for nefarious purposes, like the ambitious Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien) and hot-headed Francis (Johnny Flynn). Mabel has a burning desire to escape Chicago and see the world, but she’s limited by her situation and meager income. Despite Richie being a very bad person, Mabel sees him as an opportunity to get out of the city and leverages his position within his father’s little operation to get what she wants.
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As is expected with any film that dips its toes into the mob business, things come to a head when the Boyle family is faced with the prospect of a Judas among them. Tensions begin to flare as Richie and Francis both start to get suspicious about who the rat might be, especially after they get their hands on a tape that is supposed to reveal the identity of whoever is ratting them out to the LaFontaines and the FBI. Tests of loyalty, bloodshed, and ego come into play in major and unexpected ways.
The Outfit will have you on the edge of your seat right up until the credits roll. Every time you think you have the story figured out, a new twist will be swiftly introduced that turns everything on its head. Every single character on the screen is filled with hidden depths that you never expect, even if you’re watching closely. Despite the nail-bitingly suspenseful nature of the film, The Outfit has several unintentionally hilarious moments that help to cut through the tension and prepare the audience for the next piece of the plot to unravel. Surprisingly, Moore leaves no loose threads for audiences to worry over once the credits roll, which is an impressive feat in the modern era of cinema. How often are things neatly buttoned up by the end?
With The Outfit being limited to a single location, the film’s cinematographer Dick Pope does an impressive job of preventing the tailor shop from feeling stale. He knows how to skillfully frame a shot to induce the right amount of suspense, to build up the intensity of an unexpected confession, or to revel in what the audience is privy to, but the characters are not. Mark Rylance may be the center point for this story—as he is the thread that holds everything together—but the entire cast plays well off one another to shape the story. O'Brien's boy-next-door looks bring a sort of hapless ambition and innocent arrogance to Richie that makes you want to root for him, while Flynn plays a surprisingly convincing and conniving upstart that you just can't help but hate. Deutch's Mable is far from being a tiny doll in a snow globe and feels like the most realistic and grounded character within the lot. She has the guts to bust out of her little snow globe life and find a way out of Chicago.
The Outfit is a concise, and crowd-pleasing mystery, much in the same vein as Rian Johnson’s whodunit Knives Out. The script, penned by Moore and Johnathan McClain, very much feels like an ode to literature greats, with references to Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, and even a glorious allusion to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. Naturally, with Moore’s background as an author, it makes sense that he would utilize these elements to build his own great tale. It’s reminiscent of British mysteries and classic single-location plays, and The Outfit would actually be a brilliant work to adapt for the stage.
The Outfit is currently in theaters.
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Maggie Lovitt is a lover of all things Star Wars and pop culture. She is a News Editor at Collider. During the week she is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek. In her free time, she is the host of Starbucks Lovers: A Taylor Swift Podcast, a co-host at The Outer Rim Beacon and Petticoats & Poppies: History Girls at the Movies, and the host of Let's Talk About Star Wars on YouTube. When she's not wreaking havoc on the internet, she can be found writing screenplays and novels. Maggie is a member of the Hollywood Critics Association, as well as an actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild.MoreFrom Maggie Lovitt
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