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A well-tailored tale with The Outfit: Movie Review

Focus Features
Focus Features

Movie reviews, most often, focus on the biggest blockbusters and the smallest, award-winning works that garner the most discussion. But Focus Features’ new crime mystery The Outfit does a rare thing: its scope and scale is squarely in the middle.

The story of a 1950s Chicago tailor getting mixed up with his gangster customers is intimate, with the whole story set in his shop. Yet however small, the production value is second to none - the direction, screenplay, award-winning actors, cinematography, set and costume designs are all spectacular and fascinatingly detailed.

Tailor Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) is a professional cutter, making custom suits for rich criminals in Chicago without judgement for their work. Over one night, however, one of his best customers is shot, and suddenly becomes tangled in a hunt for a cassette tape that will reveal the identity of a rat in the family’s operations.

Each surprise and smart revelation in what’s going on is more compelling and nuanced than the last, with the script unfurling each event in the smartest fashion. Better still are how the arrival of each new character or detail make the stakes for Leonard even more dangerous, leading to a thrilling resolution.

The unities of story, plot and time are stronger than most, with all the action taking place in just one setting (Leonard’s tailor shop) and happening in close to real-time over 48 hours. The intricacy of the script is well handled by director Graham Moore (who won an Oscar for writing 2014’s The Imitation Game.)

Containing the story in this way makes it indisputably clear who’s doing what and when, which is more important here since characters and details are frequently talked about instead of shown. Thankfully, there’s lots of depth and time spent on each character given there are only seven speaking roles in the whole movie.

Because of these restrictions on the story, the movie unfolds much like a stage play would, and many of the scenes are staged like they would be in the theatre. Four of the six main characters are veterans of London’s West End theatre district, with their training and expertise clearly influencing the naturalism of their performance in The Outfit.

Even through the entire cast is strong, Oscar winner Mark Rylance is truly exceptional as the thorough, careful and intelligent Leonard. He truly is one of the most undervalued English actors working today, and this is the first Hollywood movie that’s made to showcase his true talent and what he can do in the spotlight.

With the flurry of movies being celebrated in the lead-up to this week’s Oscars (plus the continued mega-run of The Batman) this the second week in a row without any new releases.

Even though The Outfit is only playing in a few theatres, it is well-worth the time and attention of audiences. Few movies are as well-tailored as this one.

The Outfit

8 out of 10

14A, 1hr 56mins. Crime Mystery Drama.

Co-written and Directed by Graham Moore.

Starring Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Johnny Flynn, Dylan O’Brien and Simon Russell Beale.

Now Playing at Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.