All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

HEATHER THE TOTALITY: AS ADDICTIVE AS MADMEN

Brevity is the soul of wit. Matthew Weiner‘s debut novel, HEATHER, THE TOTALITY proves it.

Spare, sparse prose that has the shock and shatter of a shared and shining certitude, HEATHER, THE TOTALITY is a coruscating, thin ice skating observation of the modern rink of domestic life.

Late life knot tiers, Mark and Karen have their one and only child, Heather, in their early forties. For all intents and purposes, these three are wholly family, but certainly not a holy one. Continue reading HEATHER THE TOTALITY: AS ADDICTIVE AS MADMEN

THE TEACHER

 

Condemnation comes much easier in THE TEACHER where a seemingly passionate and kind teacher uses her pupils to manipulate their parents for her own personal benefit, whether for material gain or even the promise of a romantic affair. Concerned about the school performance of their beloved children, most parents succumb to the pressure and provide the teacher with various services and gifts.

Three families, however, decide to take a stand and try to remedy the situation together with the school head teacher at a clandestine parent meeting.

Although set in the early 1980s, THE TEACHER tells a universal story that could happen any time and anywhere… at least as long as corruption, pettiness, and selfishness still rule the world.

“All adults and most children have experienced the feeling where something that might benefit you now might also be the wrong thing to do. Or the other way around: that following your conscience or moral code may be difficult or very disadvantageous. That’s why this story is understandable to everyone,” says director Jan Hřebejk. Continue reading THE TEACHER

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL

As a young boy I was besotted with the television show, The Samurai.  I was eager to follow Shintaro, Tombe the Mist, and the adventures of the Iga ninjas. It was an entrée into an exotic and esoteric world of swords, star knives and stunning acrobatics.

Small screen samurai was superseded by big screen samurai, with epics like Seven Samurai and Ran. The latest in fantastic samurai spectacle is BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL and it’s a stunner.

Takuya Kimura stars as Manji, a highly skilled samurai  cursed with immortality by a witch in the woods who introduces bloodworms into his system.

He thinks he’d be better off dead as he’s despatched his sister’s lover an act that has driven her out of her mind. To make matters worse, she is killed by bounty hunters after his head. But the universe wants him alive so he can wreak revenge on behalf of Rin, who reminds him of his deceased sibling. Continue reading BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL

CHRISTOPHER FOWLER : THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS

A treasure map that is, in and of itself, a treasure trove, THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is a resurrectionist text of literary loot too long buried.

Christopher Fowler has given us a literary atlas which empowers us to become a biblio Indiana Jones, a raider of the lost archive.
THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is “99 stories and a dozen essays about the men and women who reached for the moon, and found that it wouldn’t always be there.” Continue reading CHRISTOPHER FOWLER : THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS

lucky

Sam Shepard said of Harry Dean Stanton, “His face is the story.”
Shepard sure as shit got that right.  Just point the camera and shoot and the Harry Dean visage gives a narrative.

Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja‘s script for LUCKY utilises that face effectively, affectingly and affectionately in the spiritual journey of a 90-year-old atheist known as Lucky and the quirky characters that inhabit his off the map desert town. Continue reading lucky

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH : ANOTHER ‘GEM’ FROM MICHAEL CONNELLY


If there are two kinds of truth in the realm of detective fiction, both kinds verify Michael Connelly as one of the pre-eminent practitioners of the genre in modern times.

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH is his latest novel, the twentieth to star his stalwart sleuth, Harry Bosch.

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH twines two kinds of stories, one concerning a current case centring on a pharmaceutical conspiracy, the other a devious campaign from a death row rapist murderer who claims Harry framed him thirty years ago. Continue reading TWO KINDS OF TRUTH : ANOTHER ‘GEM’ FROM MICHAEL CONNELLY

JUNGLE : ANOTHER OUTBACK NIGHTMARE TALE FROM GREG MCLEAN

What is it with Greg McLean?! Has he had a bad experience with backpackers and now wants them to suffer vicariously through his cinematic sadism.

What McLean did for Outback psychos in Wolf Creek, he duplicates for troppo tour guides in South American wilderness in JUNGLE.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe as young Israeli Yossi Ghinsberg, author of the international best-selling 1996 memoir Back from Tuichi: The Harrowing Life-And-Death Story of Survival in the Amazon Rainforest, JUNGLE is a jingle jangle adventure into the depths of self preservation.

What begins as the realisation of a young man’s dream soon turns into a harrowing psychological test of instinctive forbearance and intestinal fortitude.

When 22-year-old Ghinsberg leaves behind a safe future and family in order to chase an improbable fantasy, events take a dark turn. He reaches the enigmatic Lake Titicaca in Peru where he and two new fellow adventurers, Kevin Gale and Marcus Stamm, meet the darkly charismatic Karl Ruchprecter , and follow him on an increasingly nightmarish journey with meagre supplies into the jungle. Continue reading JUNGLE : ANOTHER OUTBACK NIGHTMARE TALE FROM GREG MCLEAN

ALL ABOARD KENNETH BRANAGH’S ‘ORIENT EXPRESS’

There is homicide, for sure, in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, but the hirsute splendour of the consulting detective could necessitate the renaming of the caper to Moustache on the Orient Express.

Taking his cue from his character’s creator, Kenneth Brannagh gathered all written descriptions of Poirot’s moustaches by Agatha Christie, using the extensive resources of the Agatha Christie Estate. After which began the nine-month process of research and development for the requisite face furniture that would live up to what Miss Christie described as “the most magnificent moustaches in all England”.

Walrus handlebar may be a fitting description of this top lip, cheeks and chin concoction.
Apparently, the design of Poirot’s moustache was a key component in finding the character. Branagh says: “It took many months to design the moustache – Carol Hemming [Hair and Make-Up Designer] was behind it, and she came up with a brilliant reference. We began with this line of Agatha Christie’s where she referred to Poirot as having the most magnificent moustaches in England. So “moustaches” was a clue. We know she meant it in the old sense, but Carol’s idea was that there should almost be this double-moustache effect. It had to be, because Christie kept using the words “majestic, immense”. It was almost like a mask. It was Poirot’s superpower. It kept people at a distance. It needed to be in itself, structurally and luxuriously pleasing in appearance, and it needed to make a big impression.”

It certainly makes a big impression, luxurious and luxuriant, a veritable Medusa of a mo. There’s so much mo, so much so, that the Academy may have to create a new category – Best Performance by a Moustache- which he will win by a whisker.

Costume Designer Alexandra Byrne’s impeccable eye for this precise look dramatically enhanced Poirot’s presence on screen. “The first discussion was about the moustache, so that started with Ken and Carol Hemming and helps to define the character,” says Byrne. “Then I joined in, with Ken being very keen that Poirot had a military background. We did a lot of research on what that meant, to be a Belgian with a specific military background. Continue reading ALL ABOARD KENNETH BRANAGH’S ‘ORIENT EXPRESS’

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

“It’s a metaphor.” says one of the characters in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, writer/director/producer Yorgos Lanthimos, follow up film to the critical and commercial success, The Lobster. Lanthimos and his regular collaborator, Efthimis Filippou, co-wrote the project and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is certainly a metaphor.

What’s it a metaphor for is part of the fun and fascination of the film, and though this sacred deer runs out of hart, it has for the most part, a lot of beguiling bang for your buck.

Colin Farrell plays Steven, an eminent cardiothoracic surgeon married to Anna, (Nicole Kidman), a respected ophthalmologist. They are well off and live a happy and healthy family life with their two children, Kim, 14 (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob, 12 (Sunny Suljic). Steven has formed a friendship with Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16 year-old boy whom he has taken under his wing. Continue reading THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

BRIGSBY BEAR : A BEAUTIFUL TALE

Huggable. This could be the most huggable film of the year.

BRIGSBY BEAR is arms around torso, head and shoulders above a mere embrace.

BRIGSBY BEAR is a true original, creating comfort from discomfort, cuddles out of curdles, humour out of humanness.

At the beginning of BRIGSBY BEAR we meet man child, James. To say James’ intensely protective parents have kept their son a bit sheltered is a ginormous understatement.
The family dwelling is a survivalists bunker, and the only way James gets to see anything of the outside world within the strict environs is through a sealed observation points, accessed by an elaborate series of secure procedures.

Apocalyptic holocaust must have happened and Mum, Dad, and James are hermetically sealed in their shelter.

A bright, sensitive young adult, James has grown up with a goofy television kids show called Brigsby Bear, a kind of cross between Humphrey B. and Doctor Who.

Suddenly, James’ rarefied life becomes even more peculiar as a dramatic turn of events render his past a figment with a future founded on a naive nostalgia.

Close bosom buddy of Hal Ashby’s Being There, BRIGSBY BEAR is an inventively offbeat and profoundly uplifting love letter to the redemptive power of creativity, the brainchild of lead actor, Kyle Mooney, whose characterisation of James is pitch perfect.

An added delight to the fabric of this fine film is the casting and performance of Mark Hamill as James’ father, Ted. His presence alone casts the picture into the stratosphere of the pop culture zeitgeist, and a strong, sensitive performance catapults the film further past the orbit of a mere cult cameo.

Greg Kinnear is endearing as a cop with curtailed acting ambition and Clare Danes shines as a shrink.

BRIGSBY BEAR back ends the year with a tale of beauty where all around there are tales of brutality.

Embrace Brigsby and cuddle up to a true original.

 

INGRID GOES WEST : THE WORLD OF SOCIAL MEDIA TAKES A HIT

As fatuous as a Facebook page and the intellectual and emotional weight of an Instagram, the addiction and mental decay attributed to the servility of cyberspace is an insidious problem even with so-called normal people.

Saddled to a sufferer of mental illness, it becomes a singularly sinister cyber stalking issue, the subject of Matt Spicer’s feature film debut, INGRID GOES WEST.

Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid Thorburn, a thorn in the side, pain in the arse, unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing “likes” for meaningful relationships.

Taylor Sloane, played by the always interesting Elizabeth Olsen, is an Instagram-famous “influencer” whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to LA and manages to insinuate herself into the social media star’s life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF.

Spicer sails perilously close to the coast of audience alienation by pretty much populating his picture with unlikable, utterly irritating people. The sole survivor of salvaging any self esteem is Dan Pinto, Ingrid’s landlord and manipulated fuck buddy.

Spicer and co-writer, David Branson Smith, message is clear – only when you display the real you to the world is when the real world will respond to you.

Winner of the Waldo Salt Screen-writing Award at Sundance, INGRID GOES WEST is a savage, seriously squirmy, sometimes hilarious dark comedy that satirises the modern world of social media and proves that being #perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES : STEVE BISLEY’S CAPTIVATING NEW MEMOIR

There’s no Bisley like Steve Bisley, like no Bisley I know.

Missing his first book, Stillways, an oversight I am now committed to correcting, his latest memoir, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES struck me like a rough diamond bullet of high calibre, cut into a quality carat.

Bisley’s prose can turn on a pin into poetry, not the flowery, floury fluff of doggerel but the flinty, truthful eloquence that comes from a life lived with words, working words, interpreting intent, lifting language from the page onto the stage or screen.

Lively, innovative, inventive and reflective, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES is filtered through the sieve of memory reinforced by reservoirs of imagination.

From the sweet smell of soot and cinders that accompanied his journey from the family property, Stillways, to the big smoke of Sydney in 1967 to the very present now fifty years later, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES is a journey of professional combustion and personal conflagration. Continue reading ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES : STEVE BISLEY’S CAPTIVATING NEW MEMOIR

STANLEY TUCCI’S ‘FINAL PORTRAIT’

Gorgeous, sumptuous, sensual, funny, tempestuous, Stanley Tucci’s FINAL PORTRAIT is a work of art and entertainment, a same sense marriage between cinematography and painting, a highlight of the movie going year.

In 1964, while on a short trip to Paris, the American writer and art-lover James Lord is asked by his friend, the world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti, to sit for a portrait. The process, Giacometti assures Lord, will take only a few days. Flattered and intrigued, Lord agrees.

So begins not only the story of a touching and offbeat friendship, but, seen through the eyes of Lord, a uniquely revealing insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and, at times, downright chaos of the artistic process. Continue reading STANLEY TUCCI’S ‘FINAL PORTRAIT’

THE DANCER : INSIDE THE WORLD OF AN ARTIST AND INNOVATOR

Down in adoration falling, THE DANCER is an exquisite film of form, style, grace and the toil, turmoil and torment that goes with being an artist and innovator.

THE DANCER begins incongruously in the wilds of North America, where Loie Fuller and her father live in a frontier town tailing the dying days of the 19th century gold rush.

Dad drunkenly boasts about his diggings along with his faith in his daughter’s artistic destiny. She is a reader of plays, an aspiring Shakespearian, and she gets a taste of tragedy quick smart. He eats lead over his gold aggrandisement and she is forced to eat crow in New York where her mother takes her into her Temperance mission.

Stultified by the uber sober wowserism of her mother, – books, booze, dance are anathema- Loie sails to Paris where her art is appreciated from the Follies Bergere to the Paris Opera. Continue reading THE DANCER : INSIDE THE WORLD OF AN ARTIST AND INNOVATOR

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – JAMES BALDWIN, IN HIS OWN WORDS

Told entirely in the words of James Baldwin, through both personal appearances and the text of his final unfinished book project, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO touches on the lives and assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers to bring powerful clarity to how the image and reality of Blacks in America today is fabricated and enforced.

Medgar Evers, died on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X, died on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr., died on April 4, 1968.
James Baldwin loved these men and was determined to expose the complex links and similarities among these three individuals. He was going to write about them. He was going to write his ultimate book! ‘Remember this House’ was the working title of that book.
But James Baldwin never wrote ‘Remember this House’ and film maker Raoul Peck has stepped in with this ambitious film to partly fill the void. Continue reading I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – JAMES BALDWIN, IN HIS OWN WORDS

PATTI CAKE$ : A UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE

Like 8 Mile out of Precious, PATTI CAKE$ is a rock solid cinematic rap to dreams, aspirations and perseverance.

Written, directed, and with original music and songs by Geremy Jasper, the film stars Danielle Macdonald, an Australian actress fallen on her feet in the American film market.

Macdonald plays the titular Patti Cake$, a Jersey girl tending bar, doing casual catering gigs, and dreaming of making it in the music business as a rap artist. Patti’s rich inner life is depicted in hallucinatory sequences that turn classic hip-hop tropes into surreal dreams, giving the film a delightful dose of cinematic splendour. Continue reading PATTI CAKE$ : A UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE

MOTHER

The Legion of Mary may well take out a fatwa on this Lady of Fatima inversion of Rosemary’s Baby.

MOTHER has a shocking, literally scorching pre title sequence. Fire and ash give way to verdant vistas, a pristine secluded paradise, an Eden of solitude.

The Adam, credited as Him, is a writer, a poet suffering writer’s block. The Eve, credited as Mother, is his handmaiden, renovating their rural abode, cooking, cleaning, creating a space for him to create. They are newly married yet the union has yet to be consummated.

Into their universe of two, someone comes a knocking, a tubercular doctor, a chain-smoking quack seeking succour. Continue reading MOTHER

VICTORIA AND ABDUL

Last time Judi Dench was directed by Stephen Frears, she was nominated for an Oscar.

The film was Philomena.

The last time Judi Dench played Queen Victoria, she was nominated for an Oscar. The film was Mrs. Brown. That was twenty years ago.

Sadly, VICTORIA & ABDUL is not up to the calibre of these preceding films, however there is no denying the technical virtuosity and sheer screen presence of Judi Dench.

Here she plays the Queen as a moribund, morbidly obese monarch obsessed with her bowel movements. Nobody does bedpan as dead pan as Judy!

This supposed true story unfolds thus:

In 1887,Abdul, played by Ali Fazal, a tall Muslim bookkeeper travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, a task allocated to him merely because he is tall. He is tutored in protocol which he breaks and Queen Victoria is quite amused, beginning an unlikely relationship, reminiscent of the Mr. Brown infatuation. Indeed, the court refers to Abdul as “the brown Brown”.

It is in Scotland that Victoria’s history with John Brown resonates and strengthens her new bond with Abdul. Screenwriter, Lee Hall, observes Glassalt Shiel was Victoria’s remote, private little house where she would retire to be on her own, sometimes with John Brown. After his death, she had avoided going there. But from the diaries found, she took Abdul there. Hall and Frears tap into the resonating romance to the place; they share an appreciation of the glorious landscape. The Queen and Abdul grow closer. Continue reading VICTORIA AND ABDUL

12th LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL @ DENDY OPERA QUAYS

Only a limited window of an extended long weekend opens for the 12th Latin American Film Festival, but it’s chock full of films you may not see otherwise.

A highlight is the Ricardo Darin starrer, KOBLIC, about an ex Argentinian top gun who rebels at his government’s policy of taking political dissidents up in his aircraft and jettisoning them sans parachute.

A study in abusive political power and the power of an individual to to oppose, KOBLIC is a suspenser full of intrigue, subterfuge and romance. Continue reading 12th LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL @ DENDY OPERA QUAYS

TOMMY’S HONOUR : A GOLF STORY FOR THE AGES

Without doubt, my favourite golf movie is Goldfinger.

The sequence where James Bond and Auric Goldfinger club it out for a bar of Nazi bullion is full of suspense, tension, drama and wry humour.

The sequence cemented Sean Connery’s love of the game – he became obsessed with it. Fitting, then, that his son Jason, has directed the film TOMMY’S HONOUR, about a couple of sporting legends and pioneers of the multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on green fees and tees.

By rights, the story of Old Tom Morris and his son Young Tommy ought to be known the world over. Old Tom, Master greens keeper of the iconic St. Andrews Links, struck the very first ball at the inaugural Open Championship in 1860, going on to win the tournament on four occasions. His extraordinary feats were matched by teenage prodigy Young Tommy soon after – establishing the Morris family at the forefront of the emerging sport, and as the pride of their countrymen.

Based on Kevin Cook’s prize winning book of the same name, TOMMY’S HONOUR is a beautifully detailed story of ambition, class politics, and filial conflict. Continue reading TOMMY’S HONOUR : A GOLF STORY FOR THE AGES

GIFTED : A MOVIE TO CHERISH

It’s hard as algebra to find a more charming, feel good movie than GIFTED.

Featuring Fred the monocular moggie, a cute kid maths prodigy, a hunky uncle and a wicked witch from the east, GIFTED is a tacit custody tussle with a controlled tear jerking muscle from the gifted penmanship of screenwriter Tom Flynn.

A Beautiful Mind out of Kramer vs Kramer, GIFTED gifts us Chris Evans as Frank Adler, a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary, played by Mckenna Grace, in a coastal town in Florida. Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven year old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn, a brilliant portrayal by the formidable Lindsay Duncan. Continue reading GIFTED : A MOVIE TO CHERISH

THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

Like a brick through a plate glass window, Michael Brissenden’s debut novel, THE LIST, grabs attention, raises the heartbeat, and showers an all encompassing thriller in shards of intrigue, tension and sharp wit.
Sifting through those shards, the shrapnel of evidence, clues, markers and pointers is primarily the job of the Australian Federal Police’s K Block, a unit doing whatever it takes to to stop terrorist attacks on home soil.

The pebble that starts the ripple, the murder and mutilation of young Muslim men on the Terror Watchlist, soon becomes a stone around the neck of investigators. They know it’s a message, but from whom and about what? Is it a serial revenge spree perpetrated by a rogue agent or a harbinger of a greater horror to come? Continue reading THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

KILLING GROUND : 5 DOUBLE PASSES TO THIS NEW AUSTRALIAN THRILLER

KILLING GROUND is an attempt at schlock horror channelling Wolf Creek and Deliverance. The deliverance is an ugly cry wolf experience.

A well heeled couple, Ian and Sam, who should be booking a holiday at the Hilton decide to go on a camping trip in a remote spot of the Australian wilderness. Passing through a one horse town, they ask directions to the secluded spot from a pair of suspiciously psycho locals. As you do in films of this genre.

Finally finding the secluded spot, the couple find it not so solitary, as a tent has already been pitched. But where are the happy campers?

Is that the faint twang of Duelling Banjos I hear on the soft, off shore breeze, rustling the leaves of the eerie eucalyptus?

With the other campers at large, Ian and Sam’s discovery of a child wandering alone sets off a terrifying chain of events that will put them through a hellish ordeal and punch a hole in the space-time continuum. Continue reading KILLING GROUND : 5 DOUBLE PASSES TO THIS NEW AUSTRALIAN THRILLER

THE KING’S CHOICE

A grandfather plays hide and seek with his grandchildren in the snow. This simple autumn pleasure will soon turn into a winter of discontent as the grandfather faces the future of a war with Germany.

THE KING’S CHOICE is based on the true story about the three dramatic days in April of 1940, when the King of Norway is presented with the monstrous ultimatum from the Germans: surrender or die.

Erik Poppe’s picture is a slow burn affair, building a calm before the storm so exquisitely that the mounting tension is almost taken for normal until sudden and seismic action comes crashing down.

The hypocrisy of Hitler’s hideous hegemony is highlighted as German ambassador to Norway, Curt Braeuer, desperately tries to find a diplomatic solution to the King’s dilemma – submit sovereignty or assign bloody war to his subjects. It is a duplicitous gambit on behalf of the militaristic territory grabbing Reich, a regime that is quite prepared to use their envoy as a decoy.

Surrounding this central drama, there is the concurrent story of the ineffectual Prime Minister who desperately wants to leave his position and his responsibility.

The opening scene is mirrored, although transformed from playfulness to lethal pursuit as a game of hide and seek between the Nazis and the Royal Family ensues.

With German Air Force and soldiers hunting them down, the royal family is forced to flee from the capital. They decide to go separate ways, not knowing if they’ll ever see each other again. While Crown Princess Maertha leaves Norway with the children to seek refuge in Sweden, King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav stay on to fight the Germans, and bicker amongst themselves about how they should proceed.

THE KING’S CHOICE is a spell binding film of human eminence over dry historical fact.
Jesper Christensen is quietly majestic as the beleaguered monarch, and Anders Baasmo Christiansen is equally absorbing as his son, bridling under the perceived slowness of his father to act.

Karl Markovics as Curt Brauer finely conveys the frustrations of a man whose desperate diplomacy dents his domestic life, a man in crisis due to his conflict between patriotic duty and despotic expansionism.

A terrifically tiered and textured film, THE KING’S CHOICE is a back room view of brutish bureaucracy and a benevolent monarch forced to choose on life and death matters as dictated by a madman.

AMERICAN MADE

Absolution. Welcome back, Tom Cruise, all is forgiven after the misjudged, miscreant mess of The Mummy. AMERICAN MADE is hip, hep and a hoot, and gives Cruise a character to inhabit rather than being a mere cypher action automaton.

Cruise plays Barry Seal, a hotshot airman who gets caught up in a shadowy division of the government—running crates of AK-47s and kilos of cocaine—he makes a fortune as a key player in the Iran-contra affair. From trading arms for hostages to training forces of Central and South American kingpins, Barry becomes an improbable hero working against the system. So, how does he sleep at night? Well, it’s all legal if you do it for the good guys.

According to the press notes, screenwriter Gary Spinelli had recently seen Argo, which had piqued his interest in other untold CIA scandals of the era. After a bit of research on key players of the time, he had come across a man called Barry Seal, a fascinating character in recent American history—one whose devilish swagger and zest for life affected all he met.

In AMERICAN MADE, we are introduced to Barry as captain of a TWA airliner, an accomplished aviator reduced to cruise control and automatic pilot. The thrill of flying has dissipated and he spices up his routine life by taking the airliner’s controls from time to time to create a little turbulence, and also by smuggling contraband Cuban cigars.

Sprung by the CIA, he is given the option of serving time in the penitentiary or being sequestered into the secret world. Seal can’t wait to trade TWA for CIA.

Set up with a plane and a company called AIC stationed out of a small town in Arkansas, Barry was sanctioned by the CIA to run guns into Central America, especially to arm the Contras in their struggle against the Sandinista in Nicaragua. Continue reading AMERICAN MADE