Tom Cruise hasn’t made a real play for Oscar gold since 2003’s bloated-but-watchable The Last Samurai. Since then, Cruise has been on cruise control (pun very intended). Though he’s had no problem testing his physical limits—as he did when he strapped himself to an Airbus 400 in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation—Cruise hasn’t really given us one of his trademark oddball turns since he played a foul-mouthed mega-producer in Tropic Thunder. Even that was more of an image rehabilitation ploy—Tropic Thunder was released in Cruise’s manic couch-jumping days—than anything.
But all that’s about to change with American Made, the sprawling drug saga which looks like the first great Tom Cruise movie since Edge of Tomorrow, and what could be the best Tom Cruise performance since he played a cold-blooded assassin in Michael Mann’s 2004 film Collateral.
In the brand new trailer for American Made, we’re introduced Cruise as Barry Seal, a charming pilot from the South whose considerable skills get him jobs running guns for the CIA and drugs for Pablo Escobar. The film was directed by Doug Liman, also responsible for cultural touchstones like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity and of course, Edge of Tomorrow. If anyone knows how to tease out a special performance from Cruise, it’s this guy.
Aside from Cruise really going for it, American Made has the feel of a classic in-the-making. There’s the rags-to-riches element that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio did so well in Wolf of Wall Street. There’s the “in-over-your-head-but-keep-going-anyways” quality that Johnny Depp did so well in Blow. And then there’s Pablo Escobar. As anyone who watched Netflix’s Narcos will attest, there is no more compelling villain than Columbia’s El Patrón.
But the real reason to get excited for American Made is obviously Cruise. As he gets set to enter Universal’s Dark Universe franchise with this week’s The Mummy, and with Top Gun and Mission: Impossible sequels both on the way, this may be one of the last truly adventurous performances we get from one of Hollywood’s last great movie stars.
American Made also stars Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, E. Roger Mitchell, Jesse Plemons, Lola Kirke, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez, Caleb Landry Jones and Jayma Mays, and hits theaters on September 29. Watch the trailer below.