The Outfit (2022)
(4 stars out of 5)
The Outfit (2022) Directed by Graham Moore
Sober, sharp and smoothly balanced. This concrete thriller written with Aristotelian units is unexpectedly tense and absorbing in a creative dynamic that maneuvers dramatic minimalism as if it were a chamber piece. Crafted with old-fashioned finesse, extremely subtle in ornamentation and tangible in silky aesthetics, it is a film without showy stylization of tragic action, and strongly sustains a narrative commanded by Mark Rylance’s sophisticated performance, thus managing to formalize an unpredictable thriller where psychological realism and the agonies of the past are of greater danger than the speed of a bullet.
Graham Moore is not content to be just a skilled and conscientious writer and now transfers his literary intelligence in this fresh debut evidencing his slick directing abilities. The film channels suspense with the meticulous variability that writer-director Moore sprinkles into a narrative depth that never reveals the enigmatic identity of the main character, who on the surface is a temperate, perfectionist and harmless tailor whose clients are stereotypical and ruthless gangsters, who are always reminded by the suave Leonard Burling that he is not a “tailor” but a “cutter”. Although the narrative takes place in only one location, the tailor’s shop, it never feels like a unitary place, the plot scrupulously penetrates the mysterious reality of this peculiar character, establishing more a scenario of psychic essence, where reckless emotions play against each of the protagonists of this intriguing thriller. It has a careful use of optimal narrative devices to form a framework that avoids any exaltation of the facts that ends in the implausible, the plot assiduously maintains a stealthy course until the progressive discovery of the causes that led to the tragedy; it is not a plot that is carried away by superfluous outbursts where cheating is done using vague cliché tricks, it is a film with a gigantic confident attitude in what it wants to achieve, and that is reflected beautifully well in every minute.
The writing is classic and full of semblances of Hollywood golden age thrillers, not impeccably original, yet the productive storytelling formula obsessively focused on the most pronounced and minuscule details of the main character and his sublime dedication to what he does, fascinatingly veers the sense of entertainment from a discreetly suspenseful content to a placid, gentle and satisfying look at the compulsive fervor of a character who is not simply a ”cutter” but a man who depends on the perfection of his work to keep the traumas of the past silent.
The rigorous act of crafting the most attractive suits becomes a quasi-artistic process with each cut and geometric precision to have a flawless finish, the mechanism of craftsmanship shown here with razor-sharp editing that executes light incisions concentrating inserted shots at a contemplative pace, and thus resulting in some, if not the best sequences in this film. The internal value of the main character’s psychology manages to draw pathos from the simplified nuances in the tense evolution contained in that one place where all the misfortunes happen, although it is also valid to say that much happens cerebrally, here the systematic intelligence contained in the personality and empirical insight of the main character introduces a situation more conflicted psychologically than externally. The Outfit utilizes routine plot twists, tricks that are insipidly used in the vast majority of contemporary thrillers to inflame climactic emotions, yet here the use of that tactic feels more like an internalization of emotions that we accumulate as we become more and more sympathetic to the meek tailor. It’s a film that works for its aesthetic leveling, for its restrained suspense tactics, it’s a production that prefers to maintain circumspection, there are no extroverted embellishments to spoil the austerity, this debut decisively executes everything normatively well, and it’s relished as a masquerade of unpredictable characters.
Chicago. 1956. Leonard (Rylance), is an English tailor who used to make suits on London’s world-famous Savile Row. After a personal tragedy he ends up in Chicago, working in a small tailor shop in a rough part of town where he makes elegant clothes for the only people around him who can afford them: a family of gangsters. This family of mobsters will try to take advantage of Leonard’s gentle and accommodating nature, who along with his assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) will find himself involved with the mob in an increasingly serious way.
The Outfit is a film that relies on delicate gestures, a language of mannerist essence, at first glance it appears to be an uncomplicated work without exhaustive minutiae, however when you inspect absolutely every refinement contained in its cinematic smoothness you will be surprised that it is a ravishingly complex film, in structure, in editing and in characterization. Usually, narratives that gravitate around a single character as the primary means of development are prone to erratic moments that make the filmic rhythm drowsy, one of those reasons being the hermetic nature of imperiously focusing on a single character, a very intricate form of character filmmaking, and this film solves many of those common flaws with dramatic beauty.
In its old-fashioned architectural design that formidably vitalizes a narrative that evokes the tense thrillers of the 40’s and 50’s, it monumentalizes a style that feels seamless and extremely lean, precisely what keeps the visuals from being jarring to the eye, with modest qualities that keep it in a calm and inviting vein. When we move to the other scenario, which is psychological, everything changes, the film is appreciated by a more mysterious, more diffuse and more convoluted side, those key elements in the narrative give an immensely entertaining battle between each of the characters involved in a crime. Newcomer Graham Moore uses stimulating tools that may be too cliché for some, yet his skill for solid and cinematically rich writing gives a different approach to the recurring clichés of this type of thriller; A clear example of his clever use of clichés is when we naively believe in the rhetoric of the drama as a deadly game between criminals inside a tailor’s shop, and curiously, the acts happen with so many savvy strategies from Moore’s functional writing that the game-changing surprises end up impressing us with powerful effectiveness. Malicious predictability is used, deception is used with potent professionalism, in this film, it is not the mystery of what is going to happen, it is the individual secrecy of each character that causes a psychological cataclysm where suspense is engendered through treacherous and loyal emotions.
The treatment of the characters from start to finish is aptly judicious, each piece connecting with the other to confuse us, and make us believe much of what we see or intuitively interpret. Mark Rylance with his observant and tranquil subtlety, is the magnetic force of this film, his performance instinctively conveys with agility every nuanced element of the character he plays, a guy who has the appearance of an affable and lonely old man, yet as we come into deep contact with the qualities and flaws of this thoughtful and educated character, we actually perceive with greater empathy both negative and positive aspects, with complete compassion. With elegance and great emotional understanding, Rylance manages to give the character a wit that is expressed with the same passion that this character has in exercising his profession of ”cutter”; the criminals who threaten him with guns, and take advantage of his kindness are not in the least as dangerous as this devious character, who superficially deceives us as if it were a game of gesture in a poker game. The dynamics of the staging within these compact scenarios, makes the vibes of this film even more suffocating and anxious, for being nothing less than Graham Moore’s debut, I must say that there is an authentic directing of actors, that leave me with the need to want to see the interesting projects that he has in store for the future.
The Outfit knows its anatomy perfectly, it understands from the beginning where it wants to end up and how, probably the greatest quality of this film is that it knows very well how to trick the audience and play with unexpected stratagems. The dramatic twists are not there to give a surprise action at the climaxes, they are there to deepen the seductive aura of the main character and to make palpable pathos that turn out to be delicately touching.