What is the point of being an undercover CIA agent smuggling drugs from South American cartels if you cannot have some fun? That is the theory director Doug Liman has settled on for his 2017 feature American Made, a movie that thrusts star Tom Cruise back into the pilot's seat for an entertaining bio on the life and times of Barry Seal.
While it is not without its flaws, the critics enjoyed seeing the Hollywood icon returning to that brash rogue figure from the Top Gun days. With some usual Cruise stunts and tongue-in-cheek humor thrown into the mix, this installment from Universal appears to have hit the right tone.
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Leslie Felperin at THR saw this true crime thriller romp as a "jaunty, timely but somewhat derivative" adventure title.
"Director Doug Liman, reteaming with Cruise in the wake of their commercial and critical success Edge of Tomorrow, applies plenty of stylistic top-spin to the bouncy, chatty screenplay by Gary Spinelli, compelling Cruise to raise his game and give his amoral deliveryman a sleazier edge than viewers expect from the usually clean-cut icon."
Despite some stereotypical hijinks and voiceover narration that harks back to Goodfellas, it gives the chance for Cruise to embrace what he does best.
"This is yet another hyper-competent, boyishly devil-may-care character that offers the actor, famous for his derring-do on set, a chance to do his own stunts and fly a plane; it’s not a role all that far out of the aging megastar’s wheelhouse."
Simon Miraudo at Student Edge gave a 4/5 star critique to argue that Liman's faith in the 55-year old from his Edge of Tomorrow time has clearly paid dividends. There is little thought put into the character's motivations or emotion - this is just an classical romp for the adrenaline junkies who want to be entertained.
"Apparently, being killed 1,000 times by Liman during that shoot provided Cruise with sufficient ego-death to accept the part of another accidentally heroic schmuck here. For that, we should all be thankful," he wrote. "Neither screenwriter Gary Spinelli nor Cruise imbue their version of Barry Seal with anything more than pure id; he just does, and loves doing it. Cruise, as a result, looks like he’s having more fun than he has in ages, hotdogging (or should that be ‘Top Gunning’) and conniving to keep himself alive, and rich. Getting to the center of Seal’s motivations, however, is not on the menu."
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Vicky Roach at News.com.au issued 3.5/5 stars to revel in the man that appears timeless to the action genre.
"Cruise is back in the pilot’s seat — where he belongs," she began. "Liman, who has already established himself as an action-savvy filmmaker, handles the 80s tonal shift with deft assurance. And he is well-served by Cruise, who delivers his best performance in some time in the lead role. Pop culture associations with the Hollywood A-lister’s Top Gun (1986) character don’t hurt a bit. Cruise is much more interesting to watch in the role of Seal, a self-serving but charismatic rogue, than he is in his smooth, invincible Mission: Impossible action-man persona. A ripping yarn with a keen, satirical edge."
Finally for Guy Lodge at Variety, he sees the swagger back for Cruise as the veteran exudes an enthusiasm and cockiness that has not been seen for a while.
"There’s a lot going on in American Made, a hectic, hyperactive true-life tall tale that jumbles Colombian drug-smuggling, CIA arms-trading, Midwestern fortune-making and a whole lot of very fancy flying.. It’s frankly a relief to see Cruise acting this assertively himself again after watching his leading-man persona anonymously shoehorned into the established franchise constraints of The Mummy earlier this summer... The genius of Cruise’s superstardom may be that he can make even the scuzziest American scoundrel seem, like Ethan Hunt or Maverick Mitchell, untouchably heroic. When those aviators are on, all bets are off."
American Made debuts in US theaters September 29.