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The Outfit


‘…The Outfit has the requisite plot twists and bursts of action to keep an audience riveted… the result is a beautifully-fashioned thriller that grips like a vice…’

A big splash at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Graham Moore’s directorial debut hits streaming via the usual outlets in the US; it’s an original film, not a sequel, re-quel, remake or reboot, but it’s not entirely clear from the advertising what kind of film this is. If the garish poster makes it look like something from the OTT John Wick universe, then that’s a red herring; set in 1956, The Outfit offers an emphasis on character and plot which looks back to classic crime movies, and comes up with a simple but effective story of ingenious deception.

The Outfit takes place in the world of tailoring; Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) prefers to be known as a ‘cutter’ and we see the care he puts into working with the valuable cloth that he makes into suits. Burling has his own shop, a modest affair on a quiet Chicago street, and as he goes about his work, there’s a small, easily ignored distraction in the form of a dead-letter box in his working area. The box is regularly filled with cash payments for gangster Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale), but one day, a tape pops up that may have been created by the FBI, and which may contain the name of an informant in Boyle’s empire. Burling and his secretary Mable (Zoey Deutch) wonder who that ‘rat’ might be; could it be Boyle’s son Richie (Dylan O’Brien) or his enforcer Francis (Johnny Flynn)? Or could there’s be a double or triple bluff and the snitch might actually be Burling himself, or even the suspicious Mable?

The Outfit might sound theatrical; it’s largely set in one intense location a la Sexy Beast, but Dick Pope’s cinematography makes sure that The Outfit never feels oppressive. Burling is a man who serves several bosses, but his knowledge of what he’s doing is razor sharp; he knows who Boyle is, and who Boyle’s rivals (The LaFontaine family) are, and that knowledge makes him a hidden danger to everyone else. But Burling is also anything but a Hitchockian innocent caught up in a crime-scene; his actions are precise and deliberate, much as he turns a bottle of spirits with the label away from him to avoid distraction as he eats, Burling knows what he wants and how to get it. In his path are a terrific cast of potential opponents; Deutch’s deceptive secretary, O’Brien’s entitled mob-son, and Flynn’s striking enforcer, very much in the mould of classic Richard Widmark.

The detail in Moore’s script, co-written with Johnathan McClain, is constant and assured; Burling talks of Oscar Wilde and refers to his service ‘in the other war’; we sense he’s a man of experience, but Burling wisely lets others do the talking, and defers to everyone as his Master while knowing that they’re really ‘devils’. The tables turn with some urgency, and The Outfit has the requisite plot twists, delicious tension and bursts of violent action to keep an audience riveted; Rylance leads a well-chosen young cast through the narrative pirouettes with great skill, and the result is a beautifully fashioned thriller that grips like a vice. Who says they don’t make movies in the grand style anymore?


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  1. Much as I disliked Phantom of the Open, I was looking forward to this but it only lasted a week in a handful of cinemas. Will catch it up on DVD or Netflix.

  2. Amazon’s been pushing this and I have to admit, nothing about the scenes they show or the voice over makes me want to watch it.

    Tailored suits are expensive though. I haven’t bought a suit since my brother’s wedding and it doesn’t fit any more 😀

    • I didn’t fancy it, wasn’t in a rush, but turns out it’s as good as everyone says…

      Where is this suit? Pics or it didn’t happen…

      • Well, maybe some day but as with many movies, it just isn’t my thing.

        There are never pics and these incidents never did happen. I thought that sub-context was the basis for our entire acquaintance?

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