Sun | Aug 19, 2018

'American Animals': An intriguing, well-acted, diabolically clever film

Published:Monday | June 11, 2018 | 12:09 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
This image released by The Orchard shows Barry Keoghan, left, and Evan Peters in a scene from "American Animals."

When you're young, it's hard to feel like you don't have all the answers. All your life you're told the world is your oyster - nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams; if you work hard, you can do anything! Yet the truth is, not everyone is destined for greatness. Not everyone is special. Accepting that can be one of the hardest lessons in life. What if instead of accepting it, you decided to be extraordinary, no matter the cost?

For four young men growing up in the early to mid 2000s, that was the question that weighed heavily on their ambition addled minds. Armed with nothing but bravado, and a skewed sense of manifest destiny, they decided it wasn't enough to go through life the way everyone expected them to. When Spencer Reinhard, played by Barry Keoghan notices a priceless artefact in his school's library, it sparks an idea. A spark which becomes the forest fire that is a full on heist, thanks to the influence of his friend Warren Lipka, played by Evan Peters.

Watching American Animals, was an interesting experience. It was hard not to empathise with the sentiment of the protagonists. The film does a fantastic job at framing their desires in a rather seductive manner. In that way the movie feels grounded. The boys are not characters, but they feel like everyday people, trying to make sense of their own identities. It helps that the film is intercut with interviews with the real life conspirators - who give their first hand account of the events alongside the film.

I especially liked the way the film played with perspectives. A running theme of the movie is the idea of going against what others expect of you. So too does the film go against what you may come to expect of it by the third act. There's a plan in place, a montage or two, and finally the execution. 'American Animals' takes it one step deeper and tries to analyse what a film like that would really look like. What happens to a thief after his caper is performed?

American Animals was an intriguing, well acted, and diabolically clever film. It never shied away from the deeper subject matter that most films would shy away from. I highly recommend seeing it, and expect it to be an underrated favourite of the year.