American Made is enjoying a relative wave of acclaim. How it will perform in American markets when it finally debuts there September 29th is anyone's guess. Already having opened in most major foreign territories to audience's more willing to continually embrace Cruise control, a major question looms for the embattled superstar: does he have the juice?

Much has already been said about Tom Cruise's ability (or lack thereof) to open a non-Mission: Impossible film to good numbers in the States. The Mummy can hardly be blamed on him, the tepid word of mouth from audiences and critics alike didn't help, and in truth it was, well, simply awful. Cruise clearly gave it his all, but there was no saving a by-the-numbers mess from the mind that brought you the worst parts of the Transformers saga.

To be fair, one can question why the typically selective actor gambled on such a clearly bland tent pole, but that brings us right back to American Made. The Cruise that could open more or less whatever he wanted to $100 million (even Vanilla Sky made bank in 2001) hasn't been able to flex that way in years, and while the Mission: Impossible films have certainly enjoyed a renaissance resulting in their best material (and Edge of Tomorrow being a notably great sci-fi popcorn blast), he has certainly relied on going big to keep attention.

His upcoming choices, another Impossible outing (hurrah!) and an absurdly belated Top Gun sequel (likely to be regrettable) will stick to that trend, making American Made all the more valuable. Finally, then, we're back to the acclaim it's currently enjoying. Critics generally seem taken with the film, but their enthusiasm often seems tempered. Tempered by a hesitance to re-embrace Cruise the risk-taker, to view a project he took on as something more than sticking to his routine.

In short, the film is being undermined and undersold, even by its benefactors. Made is a master class in editing, moving forward at a relentless, unforgiving pace through the “you can barely believe your eyes” history it presents. One peculiarly limp criticism of the film focused on the developments potentially left on the cutting room floor, harping on a Sheriff character portrayed briefly by Jesse Plemons. Griping over something unseen, when it has no negative effect on what we do see? It's an asinine idea: this is a film with no patience for fat that clogs the pace. When an FBI agent shows up, and begins to piece together that things just aren't quite right, do we need 15 minutes of his back story? Certainly not, when his only purpose is a failed attempt to put our anti-hero behind bars. Yet, all too many films would clog down the run time with this sort of nonsense, and here we are, with a critic balking at the lack of needless subplots.

Herein lies the bravery in Cruise's choice here. Seal is not truly the focus of the film, not by a long shot. American Made is concerned with the absurdity and scope of events that a man ridiculously, continuously, became embroiled in. Seal is a passenger, merely along for the ride; events from his life tick by in mere moments in the breakneck pace of global machinations. Both a smirking satire of American arrogance and a story of man's insatiable ability to take more when it's available, the film takes no prisoners. Some critics have been quick to call the role as Cruise merely playing to type, but Seal is far from a man confident because he's on top of what's going on. He's confident because he isn't thinking, almost animal-like in his fight-or-flight nature, coming to moments of sheer panic whenever he actually realizes what's going on around him. Seal simply takes every opportunity, never saying no. After some time (idiot grin all the way) barely getting by for the CIA, he's set up with his own airport, a substantial business, and we watch the light in his eyes, “This is all mine?” He can scarcely believe it. If he had simply been satisfied, played the government's game safely, all might have been fine for Seal and family. Naturally, most men don't work like that, and this is far from that movie.

Will American audiences support a film in which Cruise isn't saving the world? In an understated, focused film without intent of giving him superstar moments, no less? I have my doubts. Nonetheless, this is likely the most organically interesting a Tom Cruise movie has been since perhaps Collateral. If you'd like to see him doing more than leaping into Ethan Hunt's unbelievably acrobatic shoes, or simply enjoy a well-made, breathless film, buy a ticket.