After his dismal return earlier in the year with the inexcusable The Mummy (2017), Tom Cruise graces our screen again with biographical crime film American Made. The movie showcases the life of Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler in the 1980s but was later brought in by the CIA and the DEA to help provide intelligence against the communist threat in Central America. His role in this dangerous CIA covert operation ultimately led him to help the Medellin cartel, which brought prosperous but dangerous opportunities and inversely brought embarrassment to Reagan’s government.
Some Tom Cruise movies should be re-titled Tom Cruise. American Made is a fine example.
Regardless of the fact that some love or loathe him, a lot of his movies work because his name is on them. If the narrative serves its purpose then Tom Cruise doing his signature performance is enjoyable. The main issue with The Mummy is that it was a terrible film. Simple as that. Coupled with the fact that Tom Cruise did not seem to understand his character, so his usual performance became an annoyance. American Made uses Cruise to its advantage. He portrays Barry as a typical American man who cannot help but chase the dream. He wants to make it in America, so to speak. The pun had to happen eventually. His family do not care about money as long as they are comfortable. It is the typical corruption story that dangles the carrot in front of a regular working man trying to do the best for himself and others. Tom Cruise performs it rather well. This is another one of his movies in his long filmography.
Is the film good?
This is a typical 80s American movie that glorifies the obvious corruption within government organisations that trickles down to regular people doing its dirty work. The movie attempts to explain the plot with humorous narration. Barry Seal details each year how the entire operation is structured. It plays the narrative comically. The story itself is serious but like The Wolf of Wall Street and Wardogs you find yourself amused by how the movie is set out. Director Doug Liman does a superb job of bringing the characters to the surface, particularly the CIA liaison agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who beguiles the audience with his supposed naivety to the corrupt operations. His scenes with Seal are a joy to watch and are the core reason to the film’s success, as it provides a fictional insight into how laid back and arrogant those involved were.
It is noticeable at the start how American Made is shot. The camera is close to the character’s faces in some scenes which I feel was implemented as a personal component to allow the audience to be more connected to characters that you would not necessarily feel anything for. It works. Another observation is that at times the scenes show narrative development shot-by-shot to explain the story. It initially threw me off guard but it does add to the film’s tone.
Surprisingly yes. I was not expecting to enjoy American Made but it really attempts to sell the story with a leading Hollywood star that delivers a likable American anti-hero. We have seen this type of movie many times but Liman’s style works.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.