Just a little more than three months ago, Tom Cruise starred in a lifeless wannabe-blockbuster called The Mummy that made little use of his innate charisma (shut up, he still has some) or his star persona, turning him into an anonymous action hero. Now comes American Made, a picture that seems unthinkable with anybody but Tom Cruise in the lead. But there's one huge, beautiful catch: Doug Liman's electric film is clear-eyed about the cynicism and corruption beneath its hero's anxious grin. It voraciously breaks down both the star and the country he has symbolized for so much of his career.
Cruise plays Barry Seal, a workaday TWA pilot frustrated with the grind of hopping from city to city, flying planes on autopilot and coming home to crash asleep before his beautiful, devoted wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) can even put on her welcome-home lingerie. It's the late '70s, the era of oil shocks and social malaise. Barry has also been doing some minor smuggling on the side, transporting illegal Cuban cigars. Into his life pops "Schafer" (Domhnall Gleeson), a CIA operative eager to recruit our man's aerial talents to fly covert missions into Latin American countries and take spy photos of resistance movements. The gig makes him an erstwhile bagman for Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, which then leads him into a lucrative and dangerous arrangement with the Medellin drug cartel, and then he finds himself running guns to the Nicaraguan Contras. Think of American Made as the real, secret sequel to Top Gun: the one where Maverick enters the private sector and pursues the capitalist dream of selling drugs and guns to murderers and calling it Freedom™.