A role tai­lor-Made for Mr Cruise

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Af­ter a few months of dis­ap­point­ing films that re­ally should have been like­able, smart, mid-range, vaguely grown-up Fri­day-night pop­corn flog­gers – Atomic Blonde, Baby Driver – it is truly good to see an un­pre­ten­tious, smartly writ­ten and hon­estly en­ter­tain­ing film that does ex­actly what it says on the tin.

And the fact that the tin that con­tains Amer­i­can Made is also adorned with the grin­ning mug of Mr Tom Cruise must count as some sort of dou­ble plea­sure. Amer­i­can Made sees Cruise, for the first time in what feels like years, cast ex­actly as the char­ac­ter he was born to play; an un­trust­wor­thy lar­rikin who, al­most de­spite our­selves, we just can’t help but like.

It’s the Cruise of Top Gun, Days of Thun­der, Mission Im­pos­si­ble, and even, at a stretch, Mag­no­lia. It’s the same char­ac­ter Cruise tried and failed to res­ur­rect for The Mummy and which he par­tially lo­cates among the limb snap­ping shenani­gans of his Jack Reacher it­er­a­tion.

Barry Seal was a preter­nat­u­rally gifted Amer­i­can pi­lot who was prob­a­bly re­cruited by the CIA to run guns into cen­tral Amer­ica. While there, Seal was pos­si­bly counter-re­cruited by the Medellin car­tel to carry co­caine back into the US on his re­turn jour­neys. That much is more-or­less undis­puted.

Writer Gary Spinelli takes the few facts that are known about Seal, adds a hell of a lot of gar­nish, sup­po­si­tion and flat out bull-pucky and turns in a script that strives, and oc­ca­sion­ally suc­ceeds, as some­thing like a Good­fel­las of the air. Di­rec­tor Doug Li­man ( The Bourne Iden­tity, Edge of To­mor­row) keeps his shots loose and jit­tery, and di­als his pal­lette down to a pleas­ing and very 1970s sheen. If you didn’t know bet­ter, you might swear that long chunks of Amer­i­can Made had been shot on old Arri SR-2 16mm film cam­eras, and not their mod­ern­day dig­i­tal cousins.

Help­ing the il­lu­sion im­mensely are some pe­riod-per­fect flour­ishes from the de­sign and wardrobe artists, and a sound­track burst­ing with 70s and 80s mu­sic that never trou­bled the com­mer­cial ra­dio playlists.

This is a film made by peo­ple who ei­ther lived through the era, or at least re­searched the be­jee­bers out of it.

Their work truly shows. In sup­port, Domh­nall Glee­son ( Black Mir­ror) and Sarah Wright Olsen ( Walk of Shame) both do good things as Seal’s deeply du­plic­i­tous CIA han­dler and long-suf­fer­ing wife.

But this is Cruise’s film. And for the first time, at least since the last Mission Im­pos­si­ble in­stal­ment, that’s a good thing. Cruise brings charm, comic tim­ing, an ap­peal­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity and an edge of panic to Seal that all seem ap­pro­pri­ate.

Whether any of Amer­i­can Made is even re­motely true to life seems very un­likely.

But as an en­joy­able, en­ter­tain­ing and fairly en­gross­ing way to spend a cou­ple of hours that won’t in­sult your in­tel­li­gence too egre­giously, we have all seen far worse. – Graeme Tuck­ett

Sarah Wright Olsen stars along­side Tom Cruise, in Amer­i­can Made.

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