American Made is a humorous and fast-moving film that tells the crazy true-life story of Barry Seal, the man who worked for the CIA, DEA and the Medellín Cartel.
Set in the late 70’s Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) works for the commercial airline TWA, wanting a more exciting life he is coincidentally approached by CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who asks him to fly reconnaissance missions for the CIA to take pictures all over South American using a plane with cameras installed. Seal impresses Monty and the CIA so much they send him on another mission, to courier between the CIA and General Noriega in Panama; during the mission, Seal is picked up by the Medellín Cartel who offers him a job he cannot refuse. Seal has to begin to mix working for the CIA and the Cartel while being tracked by the DEA and taking care of his family.
Tom Cruise lets loose in this high octane and fun film that is packed with fast paced scenes and great performances. The film does not waste any time in throwing us right into Barry Seals life, we know what Seal has to do and the threat that comes with it. This puts Seal in a chaotic world; one that he wants though; the adrenaline of flying fast and being shot at gives him the rush he needs in life, however it is the money that he craves most, that is what drives him, that is why he doesn’t quit when it all gets too hectic.
Tom Cruise was the highlight of the film, although he shares no resemblance, facial and weight wise, to the real Barry Seal he seems to be just right for this role. We’ve seen Cruise do comedy in a number of films but here seems to be his best (apart from Les Grossman which was his greatest performance ever). He brings just the right amount of madness to keep it realistic and to make sure his character never bores you.
With hilarious moments to it, including Cruise crashing a plane into the suburbs and escaping with a bag full of money covered in head-to-toe in cocaine, this pretty much sums up what the film is. Cruise continuously narrates the film as he keeps feeding us facts about the complex missions he goes on and who is working for who.
With the handheld shaky cam and fast-paced editing keeping the film alive, it is a shame that this film does not have much depth to it, all the characters apart from Seal are not explored, they feel 2D as well as the subplot with his family which is explored enough. One in particular is the Sheriff Downing and his wife who seem to be interested in how Seal is obtaining such wealth however the interest isn’t investigated and leads to nothing, and so the previous scenes feel meaningless.
Overall, American Made is a seriously entertaining film, apart from the multiple unexplored characters and subplots this film is carried well by Cruise’s performance. Whilst Doug Liman’s direction and the rapid editing help with elevating the film too. It is not an instant classic but is worth a watch anyway.