Run time: 117 MINS

Director: Bart Layton

Cast: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd and Udo Kier

Synopsis: Transylvania University students Spencer and Warren begin to dream of remarkable lives beyond their suburban existence. Then they brazenly attempt to pull off one of the most audacious art heists in US history


Director/writer Bart Layton follows up his intriguing and unsettling documentary The Imposter (2012) with this original, often hilarious, entertaining tragic and thought provoking true story of a library heist that happened at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky in 2004.

This extraordinary and thrilling true-life story of four friends (played by Evan Peters [Deadpool 2 (2016); X Men Apocalypse (2016); American Horror Story (2011)]; Barry Keoghan [The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017); Dunkirk (2017)]; Blake Jenner [The Edge of Seventeen (2016); Everybody Wants Some (2016)] and Jared Abrahamson[Travelers TV (2016-18); Hello Destroyer (2016)] living an ordinary middle class existence who brazenly attempt to execute one of the most audacious art heists in US history. But not everything is as it seems, as the daring theft which became known as The Transy Art Heist unfolds.

Their target: $12million of rare books including an extremely valuable edition of John James Audubon’s ‘The Birds of America’ and a copy of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, held in their University’s special collections department, with minimum security, only an elderly female librarian (played by the redoubtable Ann Dowd [The Handmaid’s Tale (TV 2017-); Hereditary (2018); The Leftovers TV (2014-17) barring their way. Nevertheless, the robbery needs to be carefully planned.

This is not any sort of average gang: early twenties, with comfortable lives and no criminal convictions. The idea is hatched, almost accidentally, by conscientious art Spencer who becomes fascinated by Audubon’s bird paintings and rebellious, charismatic Warren who is about to drop out of his sports scholarship. They soon enlist intense accountancy student Eric and wealthy fitness fanatic Chas.

These four have little in common other than that they are outsiders, looking for an escape from what they regard as their mediocre lives.

From the outset, Layton intersperses the planning of the robbery – mostly researched online and with vintage heist films – with reflections from family and teachers who insist that the quartet were “pretty darn good kids” and unlikely robbers.

From time to time the director hits the pause button on the action to allow the real-life four to tell their own versions of events – each slightly different, highlighting the strong ‘unreliable narrative’ aspect of the film.

The real foursome, whose interviews are woven into the fabric of the film, come across well themselves, with Warren Lipka in particular having strong on-camera charisma.

Through each of their perspectives we and they start to question whether their attempts to inject excitement and purpose into their lives is simply a misguided attempt at achieving the mythical American Dream.

Destined to be one of the films of the year, it is bold and provocative with an unfailing energy from a strong ensemble cast, creative cinematography from Ole Bratt Birkeland, superb editing and an atmospheric score from Anne Nikitin.

Images courtesy of  STX