As 2022 starts to move through spring, the movie world has provided audiences with some enticing mysteries both theatrical and streaming. Recently, the likes of Death on the Nile and Hulu's No Exit have pleased amateur sleuths with tales of shady criminals making the lives of a small ensemble absolutely miserable. Now, co-writer and first time director Graham Moore has given us all another case to solve, as his single location thriller The Outfit has assembled a cast of killer talent and pitted them against each other in the name of razor sharp entertainment.
Though the movie lets us see into the regular life of Leonard (Mark Rylance), an English “cutter” who has set up shop in Chicago, The Outfit principally takes place over the course of one fateful night. The innocuous location doubles as a messaging outpost for the titular real life criminal network, and a potential leak has the local crime families fearing for their operations.
With local enforcement (Dylan O’Brien and Johnny Flynn), a high ranking mob boss (Simon Russell Beale), and even Leonard’s trusted assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) all paying visits to the shop throughout the night, a methodical maze is constructed in this gripping tale.
The Outfit marks co-writer Graham Moore’s directorial debut, proving he’s an even more impressive multi-skilled talent.
The Outfit marks Graham Moore’s second feature film writing credit, shared with co-writer Johnathan McClain, and it is also his directorial debut. Almost a decade after impressing the world with his Academy Award-winning screenplay for The Imitation Game, Moore has racked up another decisive win on his resume. “Methodical” is probably the best word that I could use to describe this movie, as the entire story is set on a track from the first frame, and it never deviates.
Where other mysteries and their would-be authors might try to up the stakes with manufactured “twists,” Graham Moore sticks to a pattern he and his co-writer measure out from the word go. As a result, The Outfit allows the audience to encounter surprises as they play along at home, trying to figure out who’s on the up and up. Though most people will have a couple moments pegged out here and there, the total mystery unfolding at the tailor shop is compelling enough that even seasoned armchair investigators should be in for a shock or two.
Best of all, the plot turns are rooted in the logic presented in this universe, allowing for proper thrill to take hold. It also helps that the rich, multi-layered characters written in The Outfit motivate the narrative. You’re going to be tempted to try and decide who you can trust in this den of thieves, but you’ll find out soon enough that pretty much everyone has the potential to act in their best interests.
Mark Rylance anchors a tight knit cast with stars that compliment each other in spectacular ways.
If you have the opportunity to cast Academy Award-winner/acting legend Mark Rylance as one of your leads, that feels like a pretty easy decision to make. Landing the dependable talent of Rylance as The Outfit’s anchor goes a long way in setting the expectations of the story that plays out. As the heart of the ensemble, Mark Rylance holds court with a quiet-but-forceful intensity.
The bulk of the hard boiled, noir-tinged dialogue in The Outfit is given to Rylance’s co-stars, as they represent the hard bitten Chicago from which he sticks on. Mark Rylance gets to interact on a more personal level with both Zoey Deutch’s Mable and Dylan O’Brien’s Richie. With his younger co-stars full of energy and ambition, his patient persona compliments their efforts through the perceived wisdom of age. What’s really happening is that Rylance is accepting a position as the hub of the cast, tailoring his approach with precision to match the performer he’s going up against in any given scene.
Every single actor in The Outfit is game for the challenge, as later scenes with local mob boss Roy (Simon Russell Beale) and young hood Francis (Johnny Flynn) push and pull Leonard’s actions into varying degrees of desperation. Rylance drives the film, but also has feeds his cast-mates with his performance, no one wastes a single moment of screen time.
Even if you think you’ve got it figured out, The Outfit dishes out clever and entertaining surprises at every turn.
With expert performances, and a story that’s so well measured it’s made to order, The Outfit is able to keep viewers guessing through properly dolled out subterfuge and misdirection. As a co-writer and director, Graham Moore absolutely understands what makes a good mystery tick. What’s even better is that Moore’s skills have created yet neo-noir that feels more genuine addition to the genre than pale imitation.
As if there wasn’t already an embarrassment of riches in this film, the costumes designed by Sophie O'Neill and Zac Posen only heighten The Outfit’s finished product. Though it’s easy to lavish praise on any single aspect of the total puzzle that is Graham Moore’s directorial debut, watching it all come together so brilliantly just puts a finer point on any of the individual threads. You can have fun with The Outfit as a purely electrifying thriller with humor and darkness simmering under the surface, but it’s hard to view it as simply once you realize how well it’s all been put together.
By way of a masterful mystery that keeps a firm/threatening hand on the audience’s shoulder at all times, The Outfit proves that you’re never fully dressed without the perfect alibi. A good old fashioned mole hunt with compelling figures that dare you to pick a side, this is an absolute knockout to behold. Keep your eyes open, your ears clean, and your wits about you should you decide to try and beat on The Outfit at its own game.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.