"American Made"

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Tom Cruise's career has been filled with blockbuster hits, but the guy never really got his due as a discernably talented actor, just look at his incendiary work in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" or Michael Mann's "Collateral" for further proof of the talent and potential artistry the guy has. Lately, he's negatively crusaded for his connection with the Church of Scientology and that has consequentially made him a less bankable star at the Box-Office, although those "Mission: Impossible" movies are still killing it, that hasn't necessarily deterred him from making good movies. Want proof? Just watch him do his own stunts in thrilling entertainment such as 2014's "Edge of Tomorrow," 2011's "Ghost Protocol," and 2016's "Rogue Nation" and, hell, I'll even add "Jack Reacher" into the mix. Cruise is still the man.

His latest film, reteaming him with "Edge of Tomorrow" director Doug Liman, is "American Made," an action biopic film based on the true story of Barry Seal, a pilot turned CIA recruit, turned drug hustler for Pablo Escobar. Suffice to say, despite the enormous highs that came with his "jobs" this all led to one of the biggest covert operations in U.S. history during the late 70s early 80s. 

The initial setup is perpetrated by a CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), who knows Seal is in over his head and even starting to smuggle drugs behind his back but, despite that, he lets the operation go on as is because with Seal opening up a whole can of worms with the Colombian cartel, maybe an eventual bust could happen.

Of course, Seals' loving, and very attractive wife, Lucy (the excellent Sarah Wright) has no clue what's happening and thinks her husband is just hard at work. However, once Monty alerts Seal of an arrest warrant issued against him and a raid happening at his household by 6am, Seal scrambles to wake up his family, drives them away to a small-town in butt-fuck-nowhere America, where a house, and private airport no less, has been set up by the CIA for them carry on with their lives. Suffice to say, now Lucy knows her husband's dirty little secret.

Doug Liman directs the action with same energy he's brought to some his very best films ("The Bourne Identity", "Edge of Tomorrow"). Yes, this is a character-driven film, but the action is the sell and Liman stages it like the pro that he is, be on the lookout for a plane crash in a suburban neighborhood like no other, which ends with Seal coughing and covered in cocaine. He manages to escape the scene by paying a kid for her kiddie bike. It's just that kind of movie.

The screenplay written by Gary Spinelli hits a few bumps on the road by taking liberties with the facts. There are scenes here that are clearly fiction and only included because, well, this is Hollywood and if it wants to it will damn well take liberties with a true story, even one as outrageous as Seal's. There's gloss, even if Seal's story is darkly tragic, and the film tends to make this criminal drug dealer seem ... heroic. This strips the film bare of any hefty undertones or the socio-political dilemmas at play. The film is like an empty bon-bon spiked without mirth or malice. Proclaim it pop entertainment but not art.

The joy in watching "American Made" is considerably driven by Cruise's wide-eyed astonishment with every twist and turn happening to Seal. This is a role that was tailor-made for the 55-year-old-actor and possibly his best performance since he cameo'ed as Les Grossman, The profanity-laced, ill-tempered, beer-belly carrying studio exec of 2008's "Tropic Thunder."