After the massive success of “Edge of Tomorrow,” Doug Liman, the famous Bourne saga maker and director, decided to reteam with Tom Cruise. This time, they came up with “American Made” — a film based on a true story that follows the life of Barry Seals.
Therefore, Tom Cruise is flying again, 33 years after “Top Gun.” Ever-grinning Cruise is now starring as Barry Seals, a professional TWA pilot who ended up smuggling cocaine, weapons, and cash from South America into the United States back in the ’80s. The screenplay written by Gary Spinelli urges Cruise to make the extra effort and offer a bit sleazier presentation of the character than the one typical for the “Mission Impossible” star. Yet, this reckless character still provides the famous actor the opportunity to perform all stunts and fly a plane again.
Is the Story Indeed True?
Even though the film claims to be based on a true story, not every bit is absolutely authentic. Namely, the most terrific parts of the film are not present in the pilot’s life. The film is, generally, good, but not extraordinarily brilliant. You might find CIA shady circles, black operations, and cocaine smuggling from one continent to another gripping in the beginning, but the story itself is far from fresh. After all, how great can a person who supplied the Medellín Cartel with weapons be?
Never Ask for Too Much Excitement
The film brings the audience back to the 1970s while Barry Seal, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was an ordinary airline pilot. He was so stricken by the boredom of his own life and routines that he started neglecting his beautiful wife Lucy (Sarah Wright). One day, a shady CIA operator referred to as Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) noticed Seal as he was smuggling cigars into his homeland. That resulted in Seal getting recruited by the CIA. He was assigned a fictitious company IAC (does the acronym ring any bells?) to run an aircraft and a task to spy around Central America and photograph Communist guerilla squads.
Seal’s excitement was quite high at the beginning. However, the notorious Medellín Cartel managed by Pablo Escobar himself became aware of his presence and flights. Shortly afterward, he started moonlighting for the infamous cartel too. Things eventually got so complicated that the hero of the film became a key player in Ronald Reagan’s clandestine supply of Nicaraguan Contras with weapons. And all Barry Seal desired was a little bit of spice and excitement in his boring life.
Hero or Anti-Hero?
Airline pilot Barry Seal has definitely been a special attraction, both directly and indirectly, for numerous articles, documentaries, and books. “American Made” will surely make you laugh and entertain you. But it will also make you skeptical, especially in the effort to display Seal as a hero and a rascal who struts and plunges into numerous adventures in an overly corrupted world. Taking Seal’s demeanor, as well as the fact he is so kind to his family, one may ask how bad he actually is.
The rapid pace of Liman’s film seems to be a struggle to divert our attention from the corrupt and unscrupulous circus on-screen. Cruise’s acting gives away a similar impression. Before accomplishing his assignments, Seal barely ever asks whether anything of that is actually legal. Cruise’s constant widening of eyes in disbelief is simply not convincing enough. He might have been under pressure of Medellín Cartel and Pablo Escobar, but he was just as well driven by his desire to earn incredible amounts of money.
The Overall Impression
Tom Cruise employs his acting skills in very unique and unusual ways. The Louisiana accent is great. However, one can’t fight the impression that Barry Seal is a real dunce sometimes. It’s as if he can’t see that he went too far and too deep.
The screenplay seems to be edited rapidly, probably to hide the fact that the film is not much of a spectacle. Possibly the best scene in the movie is when Tom Cruise, i.e., Barry Seal, all covered in coke, daggers off on a kid’s bike through a suburb after his plane landed unsuccessfully on the street. However, just like with “The Wolf of Wall Street,” it is impossible to find out what message the film wants to convey. Moreover, it completely neglects Barry Seal’s accountability for destroying numerous lives not only in South America but also elsewhere.
The film did give the impression that roaming around in an aircraft loaded with illegally obtained jewels is exquisite fun. But Seal’s heedlessly getting from one trouble into another, and above all, managing to escape with a few simple lines and a stupid grin steadily becomes tedious and superficial.