2022 has been filled with excellent original films, with incredible sci-fi like The Adam Project and the inventive slasher X. The Outfit, which is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game Graham Moore’s directorial debut, is yet another addition to that ever-growing list of movies, as this is a consistently exciting thriller with a few flaws, but it ultimately sticks the landing for what it aims to be.
Moore’s writing skill shines through for much of the film, as this is a twisty thriller with many surprises that mostly revolve around Mark Rylance’s starring role as Leonard Burling, a cutter who finds himself in a dangerous situation with the wrong people. This movie has a solid amount of suspense once the action kicks in and we are thrown into a dangerous situation with Leonard. Moore knows what to do with all of his characters, forcing Leonard into uncomfortable positions as he and his employee, Mabel (Zoey Deutch), are in jeopardy. In a film of loaded revolvers and trigger-happy gangsters, Leonard is forced to talk his way out of situations, and you never know what he will say next. This creates a palpable tension that makes the film quite engaging.
The film also balances itself out with its character moments. For example, the opening act establishes the relationship between Leonard and Mabel, who share a conversation filled with fascinating subtext. The movie sets up their professional relationship with hints of how their life experiences have shaped their perception of the other. As the film progresses, we get a closer look behind the scenes of every character, especially these two. With this elaborate screenplay, Moore and co-writer Johnathan McClain knew the right moments to reveal information about Leonard’s past and Mabel’s activities that Leonard is unaware of.
Dylan O’Brien and Johnny Flynn portray gangsters in the film, and they are both excellent in their roles. They both do a superb job of eliciting emotions from the audience, depending on their situation. Flynn’s antagonistic, unpredictable nature matches O’Brien’s levelheaded cool almost perfectly. Simon Russell Beale portrays Roy Boyle, the mob boss, and he is both menacing and effortlessly believable on screen. The supporting cast rounds out the two leads, who are phenomenal, especially Rylance, who continues to provide spectacular work in films where he vanishes behind the character. He plays the character of Leonard with a lot of subtlety while also getting the audience to root for him.
Unfortunately, the film can feel a bit too long at times, with a second act with slow moments on top of its suspenseful ones. It is also slightly forgettable, partially due to its structure. The main events of The Outfit take place throughout one evening in one location, and this setup has been used phenomenally in movies like 12 Angry Men. However, while the dialogue is generally solid, it does not have the staying power needed for a film with such a limited set. Instead, the movie relies mainly on the twists and revelations of the final act, underprioritizing the dialogue and leading to a lack of memorable exchanges.
Moore’s directorial debut is an overall success, but you can also see him finding his footing as a director. There are some well-edited sequences and a phenomenal moment where he breaks the 180-degree rule, but he may need another movie or two to hone a visual style that stands out above the rest. The Outfit is anchored by a captivating lead performance and an affinity for the unexpected. This contained thriller gives off the vibe of a stage play and will keep audiences guessing throughout the entirety of its runtime as it throws its characters into fascinating places. There are setups, payoffs, and thrills all over this enjoyable, relatively well-written crime thriller, even if it isn’t tailored snugly enough to be one of the genre’s best.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.
Disclosure: The critic received screener access for our The Outfit review.