American Made Movie Review
Based on a true story. Prominently displaying a large bold print as the film begins, Universal Pictures has made that little tidbit about AMERICAN MADE the focus of their marketing. Knowing fairly little what the film is actually about, what the advertisements have failed to convey, is that AMERICAN MADE is a surprisingly funny and entertaining film involving drug smuggling and diplomatic hijinks with Tom Cruise delivering one his best performances in recent memory.
Set mostly in the 1980’s, AMERICAN MADE spans through the Ronald Reagan era. Barry Seal (Cruise) is a talented pilot for TWA who is clearly burnt out on his job. Purposely turning the switch off auto pilot to shake up the sleeping passengers while smuggling Cuban cigars for a little extra cash before coming home to his wife and kids, we get a good sense of who Barry Seal is and his soon to be awakening to a much riskier lifestyle. Approached by the CIA in the form of Monty Schafer (the always excellent Domhnall Gleeson), Barry is asked to run international covert operations taking photos in Central America with a fancy new spy plane. Of course this is all under the table and the dangerous, illegal shenanigans Barry gets involved in escalates quickly.
Fresh off the disastrous THE MUMMY, Tom Cruise is back to his charming ways, playing loose and easy as a reckless, naive pilot who always delivers. Under any other circumstance, Barry Seal should not be a likable character but somehow Cruise has you rooting for him. The story also wisely spins everything in his favor, otherwise the cutesy allure would probably turn from silly to devastating when observing some of the governmental missteps of what they were labeling as a patriotic duty.
Cruise reteams with EDGE OF TOMORROW director Doug Liman to bring another fast-paced, entertaining picture. Liman understands how to deliver the fun as seen from his past projects: SWINGERS, GO, BOURNE IDENTITY, and MR. AND MRS. SMITH. Told through a home video confession, Cruise tells the story in an almost GOODFELLAS or WOLF OF WALL STREET narration style introducing characters and finding irony in his action. Director Liman, writer Gary Spinelli, and editor Andrew Mondshein create an energetic and satirical story through some foolish deeds in American history. With a similar tone that combines 2015’s THE BIG SHORT with 2001’s BLOW, I can’t help but wonder what kind of comedic spin will be put on our nations current political environment.
Like most films that champion their “true story”, I’m almost positive in my assumption that a great deal of liberties were taken when bringing Barry Seal’s shocking antics and the CIA’s questionable choices to utilize him to the big screen. AMERICAN MADE isn’t anything we haven’t seen before nor is it necessarily a challenging film considering its international influence in American history. However, led by a charismatic, back to form Tom Cruise, AMERICAN MADE is a humorously entertaining film with which I think audiences will most likely be pleasantly surprised.