Set in 1956, The Outfit follows English gentlemen and proprietor Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) in Chicago. Self-described as a “cutter,” Burling makes suits in his small trade shop with his secretary Mable Sean (Zoey Deutch). The shop itself is used as a drop by the Boyle family organization. Although he keeps to himself and his craft, Burling soon finds himself entangled with mob affairs after gang members Francis (Johnny Flynn) and Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien) seek shelter one night.
Graham Moore‘s directorial debut is anything but a “large” film. In general, the plot is pretty straightforward, and the entire film takes place inside Burling’s shop. In spite of this, there is not a single moment in the film where the mystery is less gripping, or the setting is confining. Your mind never wanders to what is happening outside of the shop; you are completely invested in what is happening right then and there.
The film’s brilliance shines through its characters and dialogue. The tension between characters, especially between Burling and Francis, is both thrilling and captivating, keeping you engaged and guessing throughout the movie. The ensemble cast seizes the opportunity to grab your attention with small gestures and words as deadly as the weapons they brandish rather than rely on flashy action to unravel the story.
Rylance’s leading role as a modest and unassuming tailor is one of his most dynamic performances yet. Despite his subtle facial expressions and soft-spoken demeanor, his powerful presence never diminishes. Burling is a compelling figure–you continuously root for him even with the lingering feeling that there is more to this seemingly simple man. Rylance is able to showcase his ability to portray a man who pretends to be unaware of what is going on while simultaneously grinding his gears as events unfold.
The film also does a superb job in slowly unraveling its characters’ secrets and motives. The difference in the relationship types is key to the plot. We can sense the loyalty and fondness between the perky Mable and meek Leonard, as they display a sort of surrogate father and daughter relationship. In contrast, we see the level of mistrust and agitation between the other twosome featured in the film: the ambitious and driven Francis and the headstrong, impetuous Richie. While both work for Richie’s father, there is an evident sense of power struggle as Roy Boyle’s (Simon Russell Beale) “number two.” Moore utilizes the positive and negative feelings the characters have towards one another to incite action and discover each character’s intentions.
With each line delivered like a punch, there’s an apprehension that sets in as you realize an unpredictable reaction will follow. The viewer is left second-guessing as to whether the objectives are clear, creating an atmosphere of distrust and anticipation until the film’s resolution.
The Outfit is an impeccable mystery thriller that easily provides one of the best performances of the year. It’s a suspenseful journey you’ll be all too glad to partake in. With its entertaining cast and unique storytelling, director Graham Moore has crafted a film with the care and dedication that would make any decades-trained cutter swell with pride.
Be sure to make an appointment to watch The Outfit, now playing in theaters.