Wanna know why I still consider Tom Cruise to be the best action star of all-time? Because he’s basically the man who can do everything. He would also need a mulligan after the disasters of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and The Mummy, respectively. If there could be any resurgence into his movie career, American Made is most definitely the type of movie he needed to be in right now.
Barry Seal (Cruise), a TWA pilot, is recruited by the CIA to provide surveillance photos on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America and soon finds himself in charge of one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States as he soon runs drugs Colombian cartel, the Contras, etc.
The way the story actually sounds is crazy, yet interesting because this actually happened. The words “Based on a true story” appeared to make sure of that fact. Sure, there’s been true stories relating to smuggling drugs and becoming insanely rich in a matter of years, but that way American Made executed that idea made it feel so alive. By the stuff that took place in this, it won’t be hard to believe anything that just happened.
Doug Liman reteams with Cruise after they worked together in 2014’s highly underrated Edge of Tomorrow, and this honestly looks like a collaboration that can really work in the future. Liman’s direction and Gary Spinelli is unique and stylish in its storytelling because the first half is very fast-paced and it has a documentary type of feel in the many ways it’s filmed with different aesthetic techniques into telling this story blending in with the decade in which it takes place. It’s like a mixture of Blow and Goodfellas, but with a plane.
Cruise, as always, brings his A-game. You can see that Barry Seal is kind of being presented as an anti-hero because he’s still doing it for his country if that makes any sense with the charm he brings. He was doing his job from CIA handler Monty Schafer (a terrific Domhnall Gleeson) and the Medellín cartel that included Pablo Escobar in the late 70s and early 80s. And it was perfect casting for Cruise, to be honest. He was just believable as this character that made him likable, for the most part.
During those times, it was when Ronald Reagan was president and the war on drugs was becoming a thing. You can clearly see that there will be some consequences in his line of work. Barry is just smuggling drugs and guns without a care in the world. Any type of movie relating to this similar situation, it’s engaging with our lead figuring out problems with everything coming up roses with their family life and personal struggles. In this, Barry is dealing with keeping up with his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen) and doing the job right.
As the film was going along, the story does tend to become a little messy with its tone and pace problem. While this does have its moments of humor, it became tricky when something serious is happening afterward. Like before, the first half got me hooked very quickly, but this did feel longer than 115 minutes. Lucy’s brother JB (Caleb Landry Jones) was just annoying and just cringe when he’s on screen.
While I didn’t think American Made was a great movie, it has moments of enjoyment to be found because of how incredible a story this really was. Not going to be one my best list of the year, but this is still a solid crime thriller.
American Made handled this fascinating, yet entertaining true story with a great performance from Tom Cruise.