Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘American Made’ is a Coke-Fueled Binge Through the Absurdity of the Cold War

Tom Cruise is fun and frantic in this not-quite-true biopic

NBHD movie 4 ticketsAmerican Made claims to tell the true story of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a notorious drug smuggler who worked for the Medellin Cartel. The film begins with Seal as a pilot for TWA, already doing some small time smuggling on the side as a remedy to his boredom. Then, he is recruited by the CIA to fly reconnaissance missions against Soviet-backed insurgents in Central America. In the process of doing this, he meets Pablo Escobar, and things get much more complicated from there. Through various absurd deals, Seal ends up working for both the CIA and Escobar, getting filthy rich along the way.The purported connection between Seal and the CIA has always been suspect, but the film doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. The movie plays like a drug-fueled fever dream that doubles as a tour of all the shady business that took place in the name of protecting American interests in the Cold War. In the middle of all this is a charming schlub who was never as smart or as competent as he thought he was, inexplicably failing up while America tried everything to could to score points against the Soviet menace.
Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.20.59 PMThe movie presents the entire story as a humongous farce. Barry Seal may be at the center of this, but he hardly ever seems to be in control. There are larger forces at work, and Seal is just a ball of unwarranted bravado that gets caught up in all the complex politics at work. He isn’t exactly a good guy, but he isn’t exactly a bad guy, either. He’s certainly not the worst guy in this story: he’s just a cog in this capitalist machine run amok. He is both someone who takes advantage of a broken system and someone who becomes a victim of it.Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.23.10 PMThe result is pretty compelling. The film moves quickly, and has an edgy quality to it that makes it feel like things could explode at any time. It feels like the entire movie is as coked-up and desperate as some of the characters become, frantically tying together disparate narrative threads, trying to get a bigger picture that’s difficult to get a handle on. It is this jittery energy that fuels the entire project, the film just barreling through years of complex geopolitical policy as it follows this completely unreliable narrator through an opulent adventure of absurd proportions.Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.22.33 PMKey to all this is the lead performance from Tom Cruise. Cruise is just very good at playing characters who just have to hang on as the world crumbles around him. In the Mission: Impossible movies, he often does this literally. In this film, he makes Seal feel like he’s always scrambling. He’s moving at light speed even when he’s standing still, figuring out angles and keeping an eye for an exit. Cruise’s performance goes a long way in selling the appeal of this film. Most of the story depicted may not be true, but there is still some strange verisimilitude in what Cruise is doing on screen.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.23.47 PMAmerican Made is an unreliable film with an unreliable subject. But it knows this, and seems to acknowledge it at every turn. At the very end, there is some indication that this whole story might just be something that Seal made up. But while it might not serve well as a strict history lesson, there is still plenty of value on the things that it touches on. Because this film isn’t really about Barry Seal. He’s just the frantic vessel through which we study the excesses of the Cold War, and all the terrible things that came from those excesses. Cruise provides an entertaining center for the exploration of a pretty strange and complex subject that doesn’t quite get talked about enough.

AMERICAN MADE IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘The Mummy’ is a Misfire

A new cinematic universe starts off on the wrong foot.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsThe Mummy concerns Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), who is introduced as military recon agent who also secretly works as an illegal relic hunter. Using a map he stole off of archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), he inadvertently uncovers a secret tomb hidden beneath a village in Iraq. Without much though, he unleashes what was inside. This brings down a curse on him, and lets loose an ancient Egyptian princess that once made with a deal with the god of the dead. This all brings them to London, where the princess seeks a relic that will allow her to complete a dark ritual, and a secret organization ventures to stop her.Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 1.02.02 PMThis film is meant to kick off the Dark Universe, a new shared cinematic universe featuring the classic Universal Monsters. On its face, this is an intriguing idea. One might note that long before Marvel brought together its characters on the big screen, Frankenstein met the Wolf Man in what could be considered one of the very first crossover films. There is a tradition here that could be translated into the modern world. Sadly, this film seems determined to only provide the most generic of blockbuster thrills.Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 12.59.26 PMThe film largely fashions itself after the superhero. It barely acknowledges the horror roots of the source material, and essentially ends up telling a superhero origin story for its titular character. And it doesn’t even really do that well. It feels long and tedious, and even after all that it doesn’t really satisfactorily explain what actually happened. The movie doesn’t seem to care much for logic, its plot elements barely connecting the dots between events. The character is constantly being moved artificially by a force that only exerts control on him when it is convenient for the narrative.Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 12.50.39 PMThe film barely makes sense within single sequences. It really does feel like the filmmakers are assuming that the audiences are just going to be dumb. It just doesn’t care enough to make the film feel consistent within itself, the whole thing just falling apart in the details. All it aims to do is deliver its payload of generic action sequences. And because of how this movie is structured, because of how it wants to set up stuff for the future, we hardly get to see anything novel. It doesn’t really get to the superpowered fun stuff. That is all presumably left for future installments.Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 12.52.13 PMIn its place, we mostly get Tom Cruise running around. While there is always some pleasure to be derived from seeing the star sprinting, it isn’t nearly enough to sustain the film. And the character he plays is just terribly written. It is as if the film is determined to write the most boneheaded character of all time. The film seems to be trying to set up a redemption arc, but what plays out on screen is just a lot of toxic masculinity with a mumbo jumbo payoff that doesn’t really speak to what actually changed within the character. Cruise, for all his charms, can’t really sell that.Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 12.57.54 PMThe Mummy doesn’t really make much of a case for this new extended universe of films. It doesn’t really establish much of an identity beyond “standard blockbuster.” There’s still potential in the concept of having these monsters slug it out on screen together. There’s pure merit to what these classic properties can still bring to the cinematic landscape of 2017. But this film seems determined to be as uninteresting as possible. It doesn’t even really show the audience what the titular character is really going to be like on screen. Before it gets to those goods, the movie ends, leaving all the cool stuff for the future installments.

THE MUMMY IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.