Hollywood superstars don’t exist anymore so says a portion of the cinema world – gone are the days of big opening weekends of the latest release of those that are on the A-list, the few special ones amongst us able to rustle up great business from the masses and get them to flock to their newest endeavour. But, in 2017, the world is now full of those superheroes, those able to complete acts of heroism against the most powerful beings from other worlds whilst performing the most amazing flights of fancy. Then again, that describes Tom Cruise too, so what do we know?
Yes, one of the last remaining shooting stars still able to guarantee at least some return on the studio’s investment, Cruise always goes big or goes home. But after the disappointing returns from his big summer adventure, The Mummy, many questions were raised about his star quality. His response: the delayed American Made which finally lands in cinemas this week on both sides of the pond and, while it’s probably unlikely to rake in the kind of money that Mission: Impossible still does, this wild, larger-than-life, almost incomprehensibly true story sees the Cruiser back on fine form in his best performance for a decade.
Cruise is Barry Seal, a TWA Pilot in the late 1970’s who is soon poached by the IAC (aka CIA) for a new position: reconnaissance, namely on the threats to the US from Central America and the communist threats. Soon, after some successful runs in Columbia and surrounding regions, he is in charge of one of the broadest CIA covert missions in history and is involved with the Medellin cartel and the rising influence of Pablo Escobar. His wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright) isn’t best pleased in the immediate revelations but as the money floods in, she soon relaxes enough for Barry to continue until his escapades begin to catch up with him.
Re-teaming with director Doug Liman, the filmmaker who brought the vastly underseen (at least theatrically) Edge of Tomorrow, with a sequel now on the way, the two prove a formidable match made in heaven. Awash with colour at the tail end of the 70’s and early 80’s, Liman’s film is vibrant and inviting from the off and like Logan Lucky, also released this week, brings some end-of-summer thrills and fun to 2017 just when we need it most. Soaring on the wings of some superb aerial photography from DoP Cesar Charlone, American Made is brilliantly orchestrated and Liman proves his talents for action, thrills and a dash of laughter.
While the production is meticulously crafted and executed beautifully, it’s Cruise who is the trump card and is on the kind of cheeky, effervescent form that many will remember from his 80’s heyday, whether as Maverick in Top Gun or Eddie in The Color of Money (arguably his greatest two hours). It’s not perfect, mind: while Cruise is having a ball, the script leaves Wright and Domhnall Gleeson firmly in the rear view mirror, rarely allowing them any space to breathe and finding out little from either character despite winning performances.
While the summer treated us to many flights of fancy, it’s the “dumping ground” of August that has provided some of the greatest entertainments of the warmer days and American Made is another prime example. By parts thrilling, funny and hugely enjoyable, this is pure, unadulterated entertainment. The lead isn’t too bad either, but his name escapes us.