Tom Cruise reunites with director Doug Liman in Universal Pictures’ American Made. Fresh off his underrated war flick The Wall released earlier this year, Liman continues to show his flair for showcasing action mixed with drama and comedy. Written by Gary Spinelli the film is a vast improvement over Spinelli’s debut, 2014’s Stash House.
Loosely based on the life of TWA airline pilot turned drug smuggler turned government informant Barry Seal. American Made gives Cruise a chance to display his natural movie star charisma that he showed in his early films. As the film opens up, we are introduced to Cruise’s character as he seems lost in his dead-end job. Seal is approached by CIA agent Monty Schaffer (Domhall Gleeson) with a deal he can’t refuse. To go into more detail would ruin the fun and surprises of the film. However, conspiracy theorists and history buffs will get a kick of the movie and its use of well-chosen stock footage video inserts of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Oliver North and George Bush, as it all ties into the legend of Barry Seal.
With his last two films Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and the lackluster The Mummy reboot, Cruise seemed to be on autopilot in regards to his performance. However, as Barry Seal, Cruise gives one of his best performances since Edge of Tomorrow. Playing an entirely reprehensible and despicable character and yet manages to keep everyone invested in the ride that accelerates with every misstep on the way, thoroughly captivating the audience to wait for the extent of the looming train wreck.
Cruise is entirely game here, not once trying to make the audience feel sorry for his character or thinking that maybe he had a heart of gold after all. I credit this to Doug Liman who seems to get the best out of Cruise. Liman also makes the wise choice not to use a well-known supporting cast, outside of Domnhall Gleeson, which makes Cruise’s portrayal of Seal even more believable.
I’ve been a fan of Gleeson for a while and once he again he shows his ability to play a quiet evil genius. Sarah Wright portrays Seal’s wife Lucy with the right amount of winning Southern charm, while Alejandro Edda’s portrayal of Jorge Ochoa, as a friend of Seal who later becomes a foe was also memorable. The cinematography in the film by Cesar Charlone was also awe-inspiring. While the movie is set in the late seventies to the mid-eighties and shot digitally, it translates on screen very well and takes the viewer back to that time. If I had one gripe about the film, it would be there is no real enemy that Seal goes up against. Based on the casting, I thought for sure it would be the small town sheriff played by Jesse Plemons, but that’s not the case at all.
Like most biopics, I’m sure there was creative licensing added, but you’ll be having so much fun watching Cruise that aspect is easy to forgive. Even if you aren’t a fan of biopics, American Made is one of Tom Cruise’s best performances since Edge of Tomorrow. Commanding the screen with the natural charm displayed over his thirty-year career, American Made is Cruise at his best and highly recommended.
Final Grade B+