Tom Cruise’s latest tells the ‘real’ life story of Barry Seal, a commercial Airline pilot turned CIA pilot, turned drug smuggler, turned DEA informant. American Made is an enjoyable film that falls slightly short of the pieces it seems to draw inspiration from.
American Made is a solid film. It tells an interesting story that not a lot of people will know and Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) tells the story well. The story and voice-over from the main character feels very Wolf of Wall Street-esque and the editing is very similar in style to The Big Short. It isn’t as good as either of those films but American Made does a solid job of telling the story in a fun, stylised way.
A very talented but bored commercial airline pilot, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is approached by CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) to work for him taking covert photos of communism training camps by flying above them. Soon Barry realises how much of an asset he is to Schafer, and with a wife and young family he needs more money. When Barry asks him about it, Schafer dodges the question.
On his travels, Barry is approached by the Cartel. They’re struggling to get their cocaine into the USA and believe Barry could be the answer. With the amount of money they’re offering him and with his family on his mind, he starts to fly the cocaine into the country.
From here events spiral more and more out of control. It’s only a matter of time before his many lives collide but he just can’t stop himself. At a certain point isn’t even about the money anymore, he’s earning money quicker than he can launder it and resorts to hiding bags of notes around his house. It becomes about the thrill for Barry, an obvious adrenaline junkie, he can’t stop, he doesn’t want to stop.
It’s fast paced and enjoyable, Cruise and Gleeson are strong as ever and the rest of the cast dip in and out, giving strong performances. The film does fall slightly flat when it attempts serious drama. Not that it’s not well acted or well done, you just don’t get the impression of threat, when there should be plenty as Barry works on both sides of the law. We should feel scared for him and his family but the threat factor never really delivers. If they’d nailed those scenes, it could have elevated American Made from an alright film to a great one.
A solidly made film, that flies through the years and events at a blistering pace. Just like Barry, we’ll tumble through the events before we know how we got there. The film only fails slightly when it moves into the more serious territory but it’s still enjoyable.