American Ultra stars Jamie Eisenberg as lovable stoner Mike Howell, the kind of guy you encourage to aim higher but who is already quite high to begin with. Thanks to his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), Mike aspires for more but his anxieties and insecurities always short circuit his plans. That is, until shadowy government ages converge on his little bubble in Liman, West Virginia, and Mike recognizes that he is meant for something… completely different. Mike Howell is a sleeper CIA agent!
Two lines of thinking are working in opposition, fighting for Mike’s life. On one side is his previous CIA boss, motherly Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton), who wants Mike left alone; on the other side is the new head of the department, stats-driven, smarmy Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), who wants his ideas to push out any remnants of the work that Lasseter did before. When Yates’ first attempts to eradicate Mike fail, he has the town closed as the faked result of a “Super Typhoid” epidemic, turning Liman into a no-holds-barred battleground.
While Mike might seem to be outmatched, Max Landis’ (Chronicle) script gradually unlocks more and more of the sleeper agent’s untold potential. It’s serious – and comic – blending a spoof of spy flicks with violence and energy. While it’s not groundbreaking – it feels a bit like The Truman Show meets The Bourne Identity – it’s still fun to watch Eisenberg’s Mike navigate his girlfriend, his CIA bosses, his drug dealer (an over-the-top John Leguizamo), and a host of assassins.
American Ultra is a story of discovering oneself, of determining what potentials and purposes lie buried deep within. While most of us aren’t covert operatives masquerading as stoners, there’s something to be said for the way we fail to realize who we’re supposed to be. Maybe it’s a question of calling or gifts, or maybe it’s deeper, like understanding that we can’t even see how awesome we are (buried under the weight of original sin) until God shows us how we are made in God’s image. We can’t even recognize that until God shows it to us! For Mike, it’s about realizing his buried nature and embracing it; for us, it’s about realizing we’re made in God’s image and have so much more that we can be.
Special features include “Activating American Ultra,” “Assassinating on a Budget,” a gag reel, and the director’s commentary.