American Animals review - true crime in a whole new light
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Verdict: Bart Layton's new crime drama American Animals takes an innovative approach to the genre and the idea of truth, with some dazzling performances from its main cast. “This is not based on a true story. This is a true story.” Four average students plan and carry out a grand-scale heist of a twelve-million-dollar book from their college library. Despite sounding like a story conjured up in someone’s imagination, American Animals’ shocking plot is all too real for Warren, Spencer, Chas and Erik, who, after their desire for excitement spirals out of control, are forced to face reality. As the opening lines suggest, this story is their truth. Writer/director Bart Layton makes a strong statement with the film’s opening lines; one that appears to challenge the creative license many ‘true life’ films are infamous for taking advantage of. In just a few words, American Animals establishes a level of self-awareness and an understanding of truth significantly more profound than many films of its type. Told through four perspectives, the subjective nature of truth is broached. Each character has a different recollection of events and, as the film progresses, the real-life counterparts begin to question how far their own version of the truth has been influenced by the others'. Using both reconstruction and interviews, the director transitions so effortlessly between documentary and fiction styles that, like in the story itself, the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. This, in turn, only highlights the notion that truth is formed rather than simply coming to existence.
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