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American Made

Rating: 3.5

September 29, 2017

Cast: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones

Director: Doug Liman

It’s been a while since Tom Cruise made a really good movie, but the dry spell may have ended with his latest, the entertaining romp that is American Made.

Reteaming with his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman for this wildly implausible, but as it turns out, based-on-true-events comedic drama, Cruise reminds us just what he can do when he’s working with solid material. He plays Barry Seal, a bored commercial airline pilot who’s recruited by a smarmy CIA agent (Domhnall Gleeson) to “serve his country” by helping the department gather vital intelligence. All he’s got to do is fly over Latin American hotspots and take photos of resistance movements.

These surveillance missions are only the start of an adventure that sees him getting involved in arms-transporting, drug-trafficking, and money-laundering businesses that make him very rich very soon. Before you know it, he’s stacking away bags of cash, pampering the wife silly, and – believe it or not – getting away with all of it.

Fact is indeed stranger than fiction, and Liman keeps the tone decidedly light even as he’s showing us the extent of Barry’s misdoings and all the parties involved – from the White House to the Colombian jungles. A scene in which he crashes his plane into a residential street to escape Border Patrol who’re on his tail is flat-out hilarious, and also very telling of just how far he was willing to go. Amidst the laughs, we slowly learn the significance of Barry’s work in the larger political context.

It’s a smartly made film that moves briskly, and Cruise, at the center of it, brings his mega-watt charm. He’s terrific as a cocksure fella involved in all manner of offences while cheerily fulfilling his domestic responsibilities to his wife and kids.

American Made is consistently rollicking, although at the heart of it, you can’t miss the deep cynicism, the mistrust of the authorities involved. It’s what grounds the film, gives it relevance, beneath all of Barry’s crazy shenanigans. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. Just very good fun!

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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