Plot: What’s it about?
Actors come and actors go, but one thing has remained certain for nearly the last four decades – Tom Cruise is the epitome of a movie star. From his work in 1981’s Taps to the most recent films of the 21st century, the actor (as of this writing, in his mid 50’s) seems to know no bounds. Cruse, during the 80’s and 90’s (arguably his heyday) seemed to have equal appeal with both female and male audiences and his off-camera shenanigans aside (Scientology, mainly) it’s safe to say that when one sees a “Tom Cruise” movie, they’ll most likely be entertained. He’s taken risks, had some amazing roles and some we’d all like to forget. So, for a guy who’s probably worth close to a billion dollars, what’s really left to prove? That, I think, is the question that he (or his agent) asked and he’s wisely re-teamed with director Doug Liman. The duo helmed one of my favorite Cruise films with Live.Die.Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, or whatever the title’s been changed to. Tom Cruise as a pilot working for the CIA? Hey, films are all about suspending disbelief.
Cruise plays Barry Seal, a pilot for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He’s approached by an agent for the CIA, Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) with a proposition to work for them. Using his skills as a pilot, they want him to take aerial surveillance photos in South America. He accepts and excels at the job, but he’s so good that he draws the attention of the Medellin drug cartel. It’s not long after that he’s working for them, smuggling drugs back in the United States. It would seem that playing both sides of the fence merits him finances beyond his dreams, but it’s a double-edged sword in that the better he performs, the more is asked of him. It’s not long that he gets involved with the Contras running guns and, well, things escalate from there.
I saw a review of this film and the author commented that “…this is a part that Tom Cruise could do in his sleep, but thankfully he didn’t.” And that’s true. For years, Cruise excelled (and still does) at playing the “cocky young guy”, but eventually learned to broaden his horizons and take some more challenging roles. While this isn’t one of those roles that challenged him too much, he seems to immerse himself in it. And it shows. While the supporting cast does a fine job as well, we all know this is a “Tom Cruise” film and, well, the attention is focused on him front and center. American Made is a great example of a movie that could have been a run-of-the-mill film, but it’s escalated to new heights thanks to great direction and Cruise’s performance.
Video: How’s it look?
Universal’s 4K disc presents the film in a 1.85:1 HEVC 4K transfer that’s, well, not really what I was expecting. On one hand, it’s crystal clear for the most part, but the film uses some different synergies by Liman (to accentuate the mood) to convey different stages in Seal’s life. Some of the scenes are polarized, over and under exposed and the like. It’s an interesting visual texture, for sure, but it’s not the reference-quality presentation that we’ve come to expect from the 4K format. Granted, it’s not a fault of the format, rather it’s the filmmaker’s vision. Colors pop, detail is sharp and though it’s non-standard, I feel that audiences will enjoy this look. I’m also now more of a fan of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio as in year’s past. I have no idea why I felt the need to write that.
Audio: How’s it sound?
On the other hand we’ve got a DTS X soundtrack that’s not afraid to crank it up to an 11. Liman’s hyperkinetic film excels with whizzes, bangs and, of course, plenty of soul and fire to keep your speakers busy from beginning to end. As a bonus, the Blu-ray also features the same DTS X track (also included in this set), so viewers aren’t left out in the cold. Vocals are rich, pure and crisp, atmospheric sounds resonate and surrounds keep the action alive. This is everything we could want, hope or ask for in a movie soundtrack. And it delivers.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes – Half a dozen are shown, all with optional commentary by Liman.
- JB Goes to Church
- TV Delivery
- Plane Auction
- Barry Crashes Into Sheriff’s Station
- Schafer in CIA Meeting
- Phone Wars
- American Storytellers – The American Made filmmakers share their thoughts on the appeal of their film as another important American story to be told.
- Cruise and Liman: A Conversation – Tom Cruise and Doug Liman discuss the making of American Made.
- In the Wings – Sarah Wright Olsen, Caleb Landry Jones, and Domhnall Gleeson discuss their characters.
- Shooting American Made – A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.
- Flying High – Tom Cruise and Doug Liman discuss the aerial stunts in the movie.
- The Real Barry Seal – Aaron Seal reflects on his father’s life.
The Bottom Line
2017 was a hit and miss for Tom Cruise. The Mummy wasn’t what critics or audiences thought it would be, but re-teaming with director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) proved to be a good move for both parties. It’s an adrenaline-fueled, high-intensity flick that has Cruise in one of his better roles. The film isn’t truly indicative of what the 4K format offers, but it sounds good and you’ll be entertained.