Film Review - American Animals

>> I was excited to see American Animals. I knew absolutely nothing about the film and thought it would be a nice escape from the sweltering early July heat. American Animals follows four young men and their rather lazily planned scheme to steal some of the most valuable books in the world. The film is directed by Bart Layton, who directed the critically acclaimed 2012 documentary, The Imposter. American Animals blurs the line between documentary and narrative cinema. Layton truly creates a completely new genre with American Animals; not only is it weird and different (in a good way), but it is successful. Regardless of its faults, this film should be praised for creating something audiences never seen before.

This new(ish) genre allows Layton to take some playful creative liberties. The film has some really intriguing quirks, especially in editing and character blocking. Unfortunately, they feel short-lived almost as if Layton didn’t want to take too many risks. At some point, the film's pace slowed and seemed to chug along in slow motion. I found my eyes wandering around the theatre. I was drawn back in during the climax of the film; the suspense Layton builds is so unnerving it’s difficult to handle. At points of the climax, I slumped into my seat covering my eyes thinking I really can’t handle watching this.

When it comes to performance, there is no doubt that Evan Peters carries this film. Peters performance seems effortless and organic, really bringing the film together as a whole. While the other performances aren’t terrible, they are outshined by Peters and his ability to steal every scene.

In an era of reboots and superhero films, we are accustomed to watching algorithmic cookie-cutter films. American Animals is a game changer, and I hope that with its success we see more directors willing to take creative risks! With this film, Layton has established himself as a creative force that will grow stronger with time to come. American Animals is a good film, but—most importantly—it’s a breath of fresh air. 6.5/10 <<