There have been many films made about complex robberies. Whether a bank, museum, or jewelry store, the thieves are often written as the good guys, but in real life it tends to be quite different as they are portrayed. When it is a true story done in film, is that the same?
Bart Leyton is the writer and director of a film that does test that theory with “American Animals. Based at Transylvania University in Kentucky in the early 2000s, the main characters are played by Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), Evan Peters (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Blake Jenner (The Edge of Seventeen), and Jared Abrahamson (Hello Destroyer) as four college students who come up with a plan to steal the university’s rare book collection, which is kept in a guarded room. Spencer (Keoghan) comes up with the plan, Warren (Peters) is his best friend and “mastermind,” Erik (Abrahamson) is the assisted muscle, and Chas (Jenner) is the getaway driver. Knowing the value of the books, they want to sell them on the black market to make them rich.
The best way for me to describe the way this film feels is hazy. Most of the exterior shots are very dreary with the interior shots also being fairly dark. Along with good cinematography, the mood is set right. The acting here is also good and is paired with interviews with the actual guys the actors’ performances are based on, which showed the accuracy of the portrayals. There are also some very intense moments as well, which the cast does well with.
“American Animals” is just shy of two hours long, and even though I thought about ten minutes could have been trimmed back, the story is still told well. One of the things I really enjoyed was how in certain places, Spencer and Warren had different ideas of how the story went. In those moments, both versions of their story are told in parallel to give the opportunity for the audience to make the decision for themselves. There is also a good mix of comedy, drama, and tense moments that kept it moving. I did enjoy this film and will recommend it as a twilight or full price theater viewing.