Movie Review: American Made
American Made, the latest Tom Cruise headliner, opened in theaters over the weekend to much critical praise. Directed by Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Jumper) and written by Gary Spinelli, the film focuses on Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler for the Medellín Cartel during the 1980’s. Tom Cruise leads the cast portraying Barry Seal, and Domhnall Gleeson portrays his CIA counterpart, Monty Schafer. The rest of the supporting cast is also comprised of Sarah Wright, Alejandro Edda, Mauricio Mejía, Caleb Landry Jones, and Jesse Plemons.
The film begins with Barry Seal (Cruise) as a pilot for TWA and flying his passengers all over the country. It’s a monotonous routine as is evidenced by his tendency to override autopilot to fly the plane himself. Seal is approached by CIA agent Monty Schafer (Gleeson) when Seal is discovered delivering illegal Cuban cigars. However, Schafer offers Seal an opportunity instead of exposing him. Schafer offers Seal a chance to fly clandestine reconnaissance missions over Central America. The plane he shows Seal is already equipped with cameras, and Seal quickly agrees to the arrangement. The photos are highly valuable to the CIA, but when Seal asks for more money, Schafer cannot agree to that arrangement. During a mission, the Medellín Cartel pick up Seal and offer him a lucrative opportunity to smuggle cocaine into the United States. Seal also accepts this arrangement, which eventually leads to the CIA resettling he and his family in Mena, Arkansas to avoid the authorities. Seal also begins running weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras in Honduras for the CIA, which sets Seal on a risky path of balancing the demands of the CIA with the responsibilities of smuggling drugs while avoiding the DEA and other law enforcement agencies.
To be biographical in nature, this film does not seem to have a dull moment. It truly is an entertaining film that blends humor with intrigue and a certain amount of tension as Seal becomes involved with the Medellín Cartel. Barry Seal is an intriguing character, and Cruise nails this performance. I’ll admit it is a little weird to see him alongside Sarah Wright, who looks like she could be Cruise’s daughter, but there is not a fault in his performance. He plays this eccentric, cavalier character well. Domhnall Gleeson also stands out for me as this questionable CIA agent as does Alejandro Edda and Mauricio Mejía in their portrayals of Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar.
The film is definitely a loose interpretation of the events that transpired around Seal, but I thought that it all came together quite beautifully. Every event they show comes full circle by the end of the film, and I actually appreciate the way they broke up the time periods by who his employer was at the time. It was cleverly crafted together, and it stays with the theme that Seal states at the beginning. He tells the audience that he’s not the smartest man and that he often leaps before he looks, and that truth is demonstrated time and time again throughout his story. It’s a testament to the filmmakers, though, that you can know this truth and yet still root for his character. It’s also funny how you can watch him make dangerous, cavalier decisions like transporting cocaine for the Medellin cartel and still laugh at his care-free attitude.
At the end of the day, I found American Made to be truly enjoyable. The acting is fantastic; the story is intriguing, and all of the set design and costume design looks incredible. I truly felt like I was transported back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s through everything I saw. This film is a thrilling ride, which is led by Tom Cruise’s charisma as this daring pilot. American Made is rated R for some nudity and language, but I still have to highly recommend this biographical crime film to the adults in the crowd.