Tag Archive: Doug Liman


Review by C.J. Bunce

Once again Tom Cruise proves he can’t make a bad action movie.  This Friday his latest, American Made, opens in theaters nationwide.  It is absolutely a Tom Cruise movie for anyone that loves Tom Cruise movies, and everyone else will find a 1980s flashback blast waiting for them.  Cruise has had starring or recognizable roles in 42 movies.  As with star actors like John Wayne and Arnold Schwarzenegger, many expect to see Cruise play Cruise in every new film, but that’s not quite what happens.  Like many actors you can bundle their performances into categories, although it’s easy to find some overlap.  There are Cruise’s cocky maverick hotshots in Jack Reacher, Collateral, Mission: Impossible, Days of Thunder, Rain Man, Cocktail, The Color of Money, and The Outsiders.  That’s a bit different Cruise than the renegades of Top Gun, Oblivion, Valkyrie, Minority Report, Born on the Fourth of July, and The Last Samurai But that’s not the Cruise you’ll find in American Made.  This is Cruise as flawed, cavalier everyman–and a bit of a dope–the kind of roles you could see Gary Cooper or Kevin Costner cast in.  Early buzz suggests this new role is Cruise as cocky maverick hotshot, but that’s only on the surface because he’s playing a pilot.  In American Made you’ll find the more casual but layered Cruise of War of the Worlds, Far and Away, Edge of Tomorrow, A Few Good Men, The Firm, and Jerry Maguire.  This is also the more likeable, more relatable Cruise persona.

Cruise’s character Barry Seal was a real person who fell into some crazy, impossibly outlandish situations as a pilot in the 1970s and 1980s.  This isn’t a true biography–the real events in Seal’s life are far different than as portrayed in the first half of the film, but the second half tracks much closer.  The Barry Seal of the film begins as a well-trained pilot that gets bored with the mundane.  He starts small, smuggling cigars from Cuba into the states while a TWA pilot.  Then a CIA agent named Schafer catches him and offers him a deal: Seal’s evasive techniques are perfect to take spy photos in Central America.  For Seal it beats boredom, and it’s a breeze for him, despite the frequent heavy gunfire.  Seal gets in deep but never really seems to understand how deep, because underneath what would appear to be your typical hotshot pilot is that bit of a dope.  He is so clueless he can’t fathom that his wife, played by Sarah Wright Olsen (Parks and Recreation, Enchanted, 7th Heaven), won’t respond affirmatively that she trusts him when he gives her a smile and asks “do you trust me?”  Twice.  He’s actually taken aback, despite the impossible situation he drags his wife into (like Jerry Maguire trying to convince his new girlfriend that all isn’t as bad as it seems).  And his new pal list includes Manuel Noriega.

CIA agent Schafer (an amalgam of agents the real-life Seal had worked with) is played by Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).  Gleeson is a ringer for Timothy Busfield in Field of Dreams or Sneakers and has great chemistry with Cruise–and he’s surprisingly strong directing the much older Cruise’s actions in scene after scene despite his youth.  Together Schafer and Seal build-up some CIA successes, but Seal has a growing family and needs some extra money on the side–and Schafer isn’t providing more money–so the CIA success is coupled with Seal’s casual assistance in the rise of the Medellin Cartel as he begins smuggling cocaine.  The DEA learns about it and Seal bounces back and forth, playing for both sides, ultimately smuggling weapons for the White House and Ollie North in what became the Iran-Contra scandal.  And then the FBI gets involved.  And all the while Seal literally can’t figure out what to do with all his proceeds from his smuggling, burying some piles of cash in the yard, his wife stuffing shoe boxes full of money in closets, after buying up much of the small town they arrive at in Arkansas.

Continue reading

Rita Vrataski Emily Blunt

When we first heard that Hiroshi Sakurazaka‘s novel All You Need is Kill was being adapted for the big screen we knew this was going to be a winner.  Then the studio changed its name to Edge of Tomorrow and revised a fair amount of the characters and story arcs and we weren’t so sure.  By the time it hit the video stores the marketing folks realized Edge of Tomorrow as a title was responsible for some of the deficiencies at the box office, and so they elevated the status of their tagline Live. Die. Repeat. in big letters on the video boxes making it nearly impossible to remember the title.  So here’s some good advice:  Forget about the marketing screw-ups.  Ignore it if you don’t like Tom Cruise’s personal life.  And just watch this movie.

Although the outcome of Emily Blunt’s branded “Full Metal Bitch” Rita Vrataski is different from Sakurazaka’s novel, Rita is the finest example of kick-ass female that has hit the movie screen.  Everyone should be watching Rita and getting inspired to take tai chi or tae kwan do.  I’ve compared Rita to Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley and stand by that comparison.  And it’s worth noting it takes a real person to do all these physical acts of prowess to bring these characters to the screen, which should add Emily Blunt to role models like Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver.

Edge of Tomorrow scene

Military men and women and anyone who likes World War II movies will appreciate the entire future military command setting in Edge of Tomorrow.  Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farell is perfection, in a camp with Richard Jaeckel’s Sgt. Bowren in The Dirty Dozen or Warren Oates’ Sgt. Hulka in Stripes.  The D-Day-inspired battle scenes even rival the great work done by Steven Spielberg in the Omaha Beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan.

Rarely does good science fiction also manage to pull off laugh-out-loud humor.  Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) took a production that began without a full shooting script and pieced together something gritty and complete, offset with some of the funniest stuff put on film this year.  Cruise’s character Cage tries repeatedly to escape and find Rita early in the film and is repeatedly killed–including an incredible scene involving him rolling under a jeep.  Cruise is a great actor and entirely believable as his character grows–really selling his performance convincingly here as he does with most of his films.

Continue reading

emily-blunt-edge-of-tomorrow

Review by C.J. Bunce

The challenge will fall to the coming years.  Watching and re-watching Edge of Tomorrow to count how many days take place in the movie.  How many days Tom Cruise’s character dies.  How many days Emily Blunt kills him, putting a new spin on the phrase “blunt force trauma”.  if you read movie ads or trailers none of these are a surprise.  Live.  Die.  Repeat.  No more apt tagline has ever been attached to a movie.

For decades soldiers could look to classic war movies for inspiration.  John Wayne performances, like his Sgt. Stryker from Sands of Iwo Jima or Gregory Peck’s General Savage come to mind.  Michael Ironside left an enduring mark with his Lt. Raszcak in Starship Troopers.  Now there’s a new movie to absorb some inspiration to take action, survive, and maybe even win in that next impossible battle beyond the next trench.

ALL YOU NEED IS KILL

Loosely based on the world created by 39-year-old Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s war novel All You Need is Kill, which we gave rave reviews to earlier here at borg.com, Edge of Tomorrow is also completely different.  If you think you want to read the novel before the movie, hold off.  The first 30 minutes might leave you frustrated.  If you haven’t read the novel, Edge of Tomorrow stands by itself as a butt-kicking, take no prisoners, tale of a future in its last days before domination by an otherworldly threat.  That said, after the movie you’ll be in for an even better ride with the book.

The action and war sequences will have you comparing it to Aliens and Predator.  The otherworldly threat is of the Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers variety.  The story’s hook will have you thinking of the best video game you ever played.  Sakurazaka’s well-developed world, steeped in good science fiction tradition, is key to making this otherwise improbable story play out in an engaging way that will have you quickly jumping in for the ride.  The hook is the Groundhog Day reset of each day, and that part is a good part of the fun, but you’ll find a lot more with these characters and their persistence.

Continue reading