‘The Outfit’— Savile Row Crosses The Atlantic Ocean: Berlinale Review

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Mark Rylance as Leonard in The Outfit

Graham Moore, whose screenplay for 2014’s The Imitation Game won numerous accolades, gives his directorial debut in this gritty dive into the criminal underworld of 1950s Chicago. The Outfit screened as a ‘Special’ at this year’s Berlinale International Film Festival.

★★★✰✰

London’s Savile Row has sparsely been explored in cinema yet, its cultural importance within the world of mobsters is not lost on Moore’s original screenplay, co-written with Johnathan McClain. The Outfit descends into the life of Leonard (Mark Rylance), a cutter who works to create immaculate bespoke suits for the richest and most dapper ‘gentlemen’ of Chicago—yet these men fall far from the decorum that is expected of them. Closely wound to Leonard’s shop is a close-knit family of gangsters, The Boyles. Led by patriarch Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale), the mobsters’ world is quickly disrupted by the apparent existence of a mole within their clan, impacting the quiet and unassuming Leonard and the work in his shop.

The Boyle’s relationship dynamic is explored, as son Richie (Dylan O’Brien) struggles to deal with his cousin Francis (Johnny Flynn) assuming the position as Roy’s right-hand man. These tensions are the driving factor of the film’s narrative, as the mob’s hierarchy comes into question when trust is disobeyed. Leonard finds himself stuck in the middle of a world so detached from his usual easy life, where he works with only fabric, needles, shears, and his quiet receptionist Mable (Zoey Deutch). 

Family is the beating heart of The Outfit, pushing the film to explore the different ways that bonds can be formed and how quickly they can be broken. Set completely within the confines of his small shop, there is nowhere the characters can hide from their true selves. Leonard particularly is introduced as a man trapped in a world of simple pleasure, yet when he can no longer rely solely on the comfort of a perfectly measured suit jacket, his real emotions begin to burst out. Stunning shots of the shop’s interior and the work that Leonard does are reminiscent of the beauty of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (2017). Montage scenes depict the intricate process of Leonard’s handiwork and the awe that those who watch him work feel.

It’s difficult to find a movie where Mark Rylance doesn’t shine, and The Outfit is no exception. Moore’s debut captures the intensity of a life shrouded by crime, using stand-out performances from Deutch, O’Brien, and Flynn to layer tension upon the surroundings of its innocent upholstery shop. The Outfit takes Kingsman’s tailor shop to a whole new level, picking at the external shell of Leonard to reveal the truth to the sadness behind his eyes.

A special mention must be made to Nikki Amuka-Bird, whose barely minutes-long role as Violet brings a powerful push to the film’s narrative as it begins to slow halfway through. Whilst the limelight is rarely taken off Rylance, Amuka-Bird manages to construct a light social commentary that brings comedic effect to a mostly serious tale. Although Violet captures attention with her quick-witted responses and powerful take on the mobster persona, the character doesn’t get the airtime she deserves, and that is necessary to end the film with the punch it tries to build. 

The Outfit is slowly-paced throughout, yet at its final hurdle rushes to get to an unsurprising ‘twist’—explaining much too quickly. Moore’s screenwriting has before been near-perfect, with The Imitation Game hitting the audience with emotion and charm, yet The Outfit is charming but lacks true emotional engagement in its final moments.

The Verdict

One location films can sometimes make it tricky to keep an audience engaged, yet The Outfit manages to keep its levels of intrigue high to produce a solid thriller that can be enjoyed by all. Although the film feels predictable in parts, Moore’s strong characters and unusual blend of traditional and subversive stereotypes allow its simple narrative to flow easily. 

Words by Katie Evans

This film screened as part of Berlinale 2022 and you can find all of our coverage of the festival here


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