The pleasures of writer-director Graham Moore’s intimate little crime thriller The OutfitWith the same glissando feeling you get when you wear a silk-lined jacket, they can sneak up on your. Many of the stories are told between lines of dialogue. They also include clever misdirections and furtive glances between characters. The movie’s star, Mark Rylance—as Leonard Burling, a skilled but humble English tailor—is adept at actorly sleight of hand, gradually revealing his character’s secrets in slivers of dry, wicked wit.
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It’s 1956 Chicago, where the Savile Row–trained Leonard now runs his own shop, making fine suits for a clientele heavy on high-ranking gangsters. Leonard permits his space to serve as a kind of mob message center. However, he doesn’t mind letting the mob use his shop. Instead, he focuses mostly on creating buttonholes or working with wool using his valuable shears. His loyal receptionist, Mable (Zoey Deutch), a bright young woman who longs to see the world beyond her stifling city, may or may not be having a romance with junior mobster Richie (Dylan O’Brien), the son of big boss Roy (Simon Russell Beale). Richie is always accompanied by Francis (Johnny Flynn), a hotheaded and ambitious sidekick who stirs up trouble at every turn.
At the center of this clever pinwheel of a story—Moore co-wrote the script with Johnathan McClain—is Rylance, whose economy of motion and emotion is a marvel. As he sits quietly and watchfully sewing a sleeve hem, you believe in every stitch—Rylance shows how Leonard’s confidence in his work ripples through him like electricity, reaching right through his fingertips. At times Rylance’s Leonard has the eyes of an anxious terrier, wary and alert. His gaze softens when Mable is around: she’s a kind of surrogate daughter to him, a jewel worth protecting. The action is almost all in The Outfit takes place inside Leonard’s shop, a cozy lair shot in muted-flannel tones of gray and gold, but Rylance fills the space with subtle grandeur. Every move, every breathe is measured. We can never go back to “off-the-rack”.
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