Ben Oliver
American
American Animals
"Art has to be about more than just, 'My life is great and I'm really good at drawing.'"
June 10 2019 - 19:00 UTC

Four college students plan a heist of some of the most valuable books in America.

An interesting docu-drama structure that seamlessly floats between talking heads and live-action. American Animals is particularly compelling because it has everyone on board to tell their side of the story.

Layton has a real knack for knowing when to cut to the real interviews. Timing is everything. Just as you are wondering what must have been going through their heads, your questions are answered. It’s an incredibly well put together piece of work.

The heist itself shows that there’s no romance in real crime, especially when you only half thought it through. It plays out like an anxious nightmare, with everything going wrong every step of the way.

The drama side of the docu-drama is good enough to stand alone, and that’s where American Animals bucks the trend of its cheap TV counterparts. It’s gripping, well cast and well shot.

There’s “based on a true story” then there’s “we’ve got the people involved in the true story right here to back up what we are saying”. While the latter sounds like a gimmick (and for the most part ‘true stories’ are overrated anyway), American Animals does it so gracefully and powerfully that it’s not distracting at all.

A true one of a kind.