American Animals

Taking granddad chic to new levels
Verdict: 
8/10 – Smart, captivating and a totally unique cinema experience. American Animals is not a film to be missed this autumn.
Release Date: 
Friday, September 7, 2018
Written by: 

Four boys plot and plan an audacious robbery but are soon blurring the lines between fiction and reality in their otherwise boring lives.

8

To go alongside documentary filmmaker Bart Layton's BAFTA-winning documentary The Imposter, is American Animals – an original and unique mash-up of documentary-style storytelling and Hollywood heist.

Focusing on the real-life friendship of art student Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) and his best friend, the slightly wild Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), we get to watch as the two boys hatch a plan to steal a hoard of extremely rare books from Spencer’s college library, while intermittently hearing from the real people portrayed in the film.

Although a talented artist, Spencer longs to be a tortured soul like art gods Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

After starting Kentucky's vampirically-named Transylvania University in 2003, Spencer is given a tour of the library's rare book collection, which includes Charles Darwin's famed work On the Origin of Species.

Spencer is immediately mesmerised by John James Audubon's The Birds of America - a collection of illustrations painted by Audubon in the early 19th century, when he made it his mission to document every bird in America.

Recalling the book in a stoned chat with loose cannon Warren, Spencer’s best friend puts two and two together and makes five, and concludes his budding artist pal wants to steal the book, an idea which sparks a chain of events that will change the course of the boys' lives.

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The two pour over the idea for months, using knowledge garnered from heist films to help flesh out their plan.

They even travel from their home state of Kentucky to New York for their research, and Warren flies to Amsterdam to meet with a black market buyer.

It slowly dawns on Spencer that the robbery is for real, a thought that both scares and excites him.

At the same time, Warren is realising they need more brain and manpower, so recruits Erik Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson), a clued-up acquaintance who helps work out the logistics, and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner), a fitness freak with an impressive bank account who will be the getaway driver.

The only thing standing in their way, quite literally, is special collections librarian Betty Jean Gooch (Ann Dowd), but as their audacious plan starts to run away with them, the boys work out how to erase that particular problem.

Layton has created a captivating, fast-paced flick, which blurs the line between movie and documentary - a fresh and innovative film technique that ensures the viewer is fully immersed from the get-go.

The cast put in impressive performances, especially Dunkirk actor Keoghan as the quiet Spencer, and Peters, who effortlessly swaggers between fun-time friend to crazed wannabe criminal Warren.

Both are desperate for something big to happen in their otherwise ordinary lives, though each reacts in a different way when their wish slowly starts to become reality.

Layton, with the help of cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland and composer Anne Nikitin, presents us with a classic crime caper, helped along with clever movie tricks.

But the real magic as you sit there and absorb this brilliant film is knowing this all happened.

A smart and slick cinema experience which makes the audience both laugh and gasp, American Animals will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

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