American Made

Tom Cruise gives his best performance in years in a film almost too intently nuts to notice.

Perhaps this is a perfect role for the hardly aging superstar. Playing (and I do mean playing) a bored TWA pilot recruited by the CIA, Cruise, whom I have always thought was a far more interesting actor than his reputation allows, nails the thrill and naivety of a family man who can’t say no. Our ‘hero” winds up not just flying reconnaissance during the Carter Administration’s attempts to quell the growing Communist threat in Central America, he can’t resist buddying up to the Medellin cartel and raking it in from any end that’ll have him. Writer Gary Spinelli and director Doug Liman keep the particulars of all this down to bullet points, this is not a drama about political corruption that led to the Regan White House Iran Contra scandal, this is a hyped-up movie about the exhilaration of being on the inside. The fast cuts, jumps and energy will keep action fans happily entertained, zipping along the way they would with a covert spy thrilling paperback.

Cruise and Liman’s last collaboration, the great Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, has earned an almost cultish following. American Made may be more of a direct hit to audiences looking for some fun. This one could have just gone down easy and be easily forgotten, but I can’t shake what its leading man (and no other actor involved) delivers. Sweating and filthed up, Cruise commits to this character, allowing us to see the conflicts that may have led a regular guy into temptation. The pacing of the film hardly pauses for such ruminations, but Cruise efficiently makes the most of every moment, letting the character breathe when the movie itself does not.