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Film Review: “American Animals” (2018) ★★★★★


There is one thing I personally believe in – nothing happens for no reason. And if it does, it has its own purpose to serve that might become known sometime in the future, while others will call it fate. But from whichever angle you look at, life is indeed a funny thing and you never know where it would take you in either case whether you enter through the door with lots of opportunities that wait for you, or whether you decide to skip it and continue the journey outside of that door. In both cases whether the results will be different can only be known if the same life is lived twice. But is that what “American Animals” is all about? Perhaps! But it’s a great start to begin the conversation that can lead all of us to great discoveries.

“American Animals” follows four college students who attempt to rob extremely priceless rare books possessed by the Transylvania University. While all friends are in fact from privileged families, they somehow decide to enter the dark path that will lead them to the most daring heists in U.S. history told by real people, you can be sure, narrated as accurately as it could be, turning robbery into art, but in their own way that will puzzle any mind.

Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) is a talented young man who likes art and painting.  Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) is another brilliant individual who, if not for what he did, could have staged for himself a very successful future. Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) is the most careful of them all, but still there to join his friends to rob the book that might bring them twelve million dollars. And Warren Lipka (Evan Peters) – someone with a rich imagination and the ability to tell stories in a way even he himself might start believing in.

As the story unfolds, the quartet become interested in literary books, which, after a successful robbery, helped them to steal sketches by naturalist John James Audubon, the first edition of Charles Darwin’s classic “On the Origin of Species,” and two rare manuscripts from the library guarded by Betty Jean Gooch (Ann Dowd).

Written and directed by Bart Layton, “American Animals” is one of those true crime films where you will never question even a single scene from it. As it was told by real people (all the four men, their parents and Betty Jean Gooch), with the help of actors the film recreates the youngsters’ bold and ambitious plan, which frankly, was incredible that it even worked. As the story itself is super interesting, Bart Layton seemed knew about his approach right from the start to craft it in a somewhat funny way.

In conclusion, the brilliance of “American Animals” lies in its true protagonists the film is based on, who become heroes of their selves, separated after many years, telling their own story. Layton makes sure to miss no details. Overall, it’s an impressive, enjoyable, nail-biting piece that is amazingly engaging, intriguing and superbly entertaining, even though there was nothing to laugh at whatsoever. And by the time when you reach towards the end, be ready to get emotional, inspired and even sad, and all in a good way. Because what “American Animals” offers is something you have not seen anything like it before. And to experience that is an absolute joy, I would doubt, you would want to miss.

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