The combination of real-life interviews and fictional re-creations is cinematic brilliance
American Animals is entirely a product of its unique story and its unique style. The seamless interchange between documentary-type interviews and reconstructed events gives the film a decisively individual nature. Much of the idea behind American Animals is creating a set of characters with intent and motive to carry out their heist, however tenuous they become by the final act. The characterisation of the real life heisters, compared to the men themselves, gives the film its starkly original personality.
Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) and Warren Lipka (Evan Peters) are college friends bored with their average lives. Desperate to alter their mediocre fortunes, Spencer suggests the pair plot to steal America’s most expensive book, housed in their College’s library. As the plotting begins to get out of hand, the pair bring on board two fellow students, and the possibility of them actually carrying out the heist becomes discerningly more realistic.
The use of Evan Peters as group leader Lipka offers up the most ambiguous of characters, adding incredible guile to the story. The nature of the events and the difference in each character’s account of the day’s proceedings makes Peters’ off-the-hook performance even more enjoyable. The exact sequence of what happened in the build up to the heist, and the actual heist itself may never truly be clear, and director Bart Layton not only understands that, but makes it his prerogative to explain, in detail.
It isn’t just Peters that shines in American Animals with Barry Keoghan, who made a name for himself in last year’s Killing Of A Sacred Deer, setting himself up to become a regular at the top of the acting game. His introverted and uneasy nature comes off particularly well, giving his alternate viewpoint and often reluctant characteristics. The actors aren’t trying to replicate their real-life counterparts, they are offering separate characterisations, adding to the dubious nature of the heist and the men who carried it out.
The direction from Layton is both bold and expressive, showing a real passion for quirky and progressive film making. The combination of real-life interviews and fictional re-creations is cinematic brilliance, and gives American Animals a keen sense of awe and originality. The actors are equally as impressive and showcase just how inventive the whole film actually is. American Animals is an absolute marvel.
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