Sunday 3 September 2017

Film Review: American Made

Funny, frisky and full of hijinks, American Made is a return to form for Tom Cruise.

Spanning roughly six or seven years from the late 70s to the mid 80s, American Made sees airline pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) hang up his wings and regular paycheck for a role with the CIA, photographing Soviet-supported insurgents across South America.

Before long, Barry finds himself tangled up with drug cartels and corrupt generals, not to mention the net closing in on him back in the USA. With more money than sense and a lot of idiotic people rounding out his posse, Barry soon finds himself struggling to keep his illegal activities under lock and key – with hilarious results.

Fast and loose and skipping along with a cheeky charm that is hard to ignore, American Made is bonafide return to form for Tom Cruise. For the past few years, it has felt like Cruise performances have fallen into two distinct categories; autopilot all-American heroes in derivative fluff like Knight and Day, Jack Reacher or The Mummy or a brash daredevils with a posse like Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series.

American Made feels like the first time in nearly a decade (since Tropic Thunder) that Cruise has taken on a role outside of his usual GI Joe mould and made it work. When all is said and done, this film is fairly by the book; it's a tale of a man who gets in out of his depth and is struggling to stay afloat. Greed gets the better of him and the tragic fall from grace begins, and so on and so forth. It's very similar to something like The Wolf of Wall Street in that regard, with a lick of War Dogs (but much better) and Narcos.

But this straightforward narrative is elevated ten-fold by Cruise's excitable and goofy performance. It feels like a genuine throwback to some of his fresh earlier work in original fare like Jerry Maguire.

American Made is also elevated by Liman's inventive, almost documentarian, approach to its skewed history narrative. Barry's adventures in Central America are padded out with energetic bursts of archival footage, freeze frames, voiceover and goofy maps with arrows that race around and put a silly bent on the drug trafficking.

Supporting cast members like Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright and Jesse Plemons add to the freewheeling, tongue-in-cheek vibe.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

A fun romp that finds the ideal middle ground with regards to tone, American Made is a showcase of Cruise's talent as an actor and an effervescent illustration of Liman's direction. An all-round entertaining time that is a surprisingly good start to the southern spring.

American Made is in cinemas across Australia now. 

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