NEW TO PEACOCK! Graham Moore won the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for his first feature-length script, The Imitation Game. Now, Graham’s making his directorial debut with The Outfit, which he co-wrote with Johnathan McClain. Set in 1956 Chicago, the dramatic thriller is a mystery centering on the mob and a McGuffin.
The Windy City doesn’t play host to Nazis, nor have blue jeans quite become the dominant pant of choice, so Leonard “English” Burling (Mark Rylance) leaves England to make a life there. The cutter’s first customer at his bespoke shop was the head of the Boyle family, Roy (Simon Russell Beale). As a thank you, and a way of ensuring their loyalty, the sartor allows them to keep a locked dropbox in the back of the store. The Boyles are hoping to join the Al Capone-started Outfit and are ecstatic about receiving correspondence from them. Then, one night, the Boyles receive a package from The Outfit containing a tape.
“…the other mafiosos preparing to kill everyone in their way to get their hands on the tape.”
The tape is from the FBI and reveals the identity of a rat in their midst. This sends Richie (Dylan O’Brien), Roy’s son and second in command of the mob, and the brutal but cunning Francis (Johnny Flynn) on a quest to protect the tape and find a way to listen to it. But, word of its existence has spread, so now the other mafiosos are preparing to kill everyone in their way to get their hands on the tape. At the center of it all is English, his little suit store, and secretary Mable (Zoey Deutch), who’s dating Richie and longs to see the world. Who is the rat? How did the other mob heads learn of the tape’s existence so quickly? Of course, things only escalate and become more complicated as the long winter night continues on.
The Outfit has a cast of only half a dozen or so characters, is set almost entirely in a single location, and focuses on dialogue over action. As such, it’s easy to imagine this as a stage play or having been adapted from one. While true, that thought process does a disservice to Moore’s intuitive, intense direction. Thanks to William Goldberg’s editing and Moore’s firm grasp on tone, the film is a series of evermore involving setpieces, some dialogue-driven, such as when English proclaims, “I don’t want to be involved in whatever it is you do.” Francis snidely retorts, “You know exactly what it is we do.” It perfectly establishes English’s wishes to be left clueless while cementing Francis as no-nonsense and terrifying.
Mable and English also get several splendid lines together, especially early on, when neither can tell the other that they’re a great surrogate daughter/father. It’s rather sweet and informs several actions they both take as the night turns to dawn and the body count continues to rise. The dialogue is also clever in ways that allow levity in, so not everything is dour and death all the time. English trying to guess where Mable’s latest snowglobe is from or telling her that if she wants a raise, “she better learn what a square is” are fun and add a lot to the characters.
"…an early contender for best movie of the year."