Tom Cruise’s second collaboration with director Doug Liman (the first being Edge of Tomorrow/Live.Die.Repeat) sees the pair turn away from the action and science-fiction genres to tackle an adaptation based around the real life story of pilot Barry Seal.
The story sees Cruise as Seal quit his job as an airline pilot after being approached by the CIA. Tasked with taking pictures of enemy camps during the Cold War, Seal quickly starts to find alternate ways of making money, as he gets in with the likes of Pablo Escobar and the Nicarguan Contras. As smuggling for these various factions becomes more and more dangerous, Seal sees his wealth skyrocket, whilst becoming the target of various law enforcement agencies.
There are two primary factors that may decide whether or not this is the film for you. The first is whether or not you like Tom Cruise movies. The second is if you’re a fan of real life American success stories like Wolf on Wall Street and War Dogs, as this movie has a lot of parallels to those. It’s a film about the American Dream, and a man who finds it in a rather extraordinary way.
In that vein, its a film where you’re eager to see the protagonist succeed, but at the same time, increasingly curious as to how everything is going to crumble around him (assuming you don’t know the real life story of Barry Seal). The thing about this film, however, is that it manages to subvert some of those expectations as to how it’s going to happen – it’s based on a true story, and as such it doesn’t follow the conventional plot of these films to a T.
Another difference between this film, War Dogs and Wolf on Wall Street is how Liman makes it really feel like a 70s-80s film. The texture of the shots changes depending on what year the story is showing, and it’s meshed together with real-life footage of events that never threatens to take you out of the movie.
And it’s not just the style of shooting, but what’s being shot that’s impressive. The globe-trotting nature of Seal’s story lends itself to some vast and lush shots of different countries. Furthermore, the actors and their characters, who are always the heart of the story, rather than the story itself, feel real and are a lot of fun to watch and are oft times, quite amusing.
Cruise’s co-star Domnhall Gleeson in particular, despite his British origins, feels very believable as your shady CIA informant. These characters cycle through a range of emotions, and each and every one of them feels incredibly real and enthralling. This is heightened by the script, which also feels very true to the story as while some of the lines may make you a bit uneasy, they seem eighties appropriate. There’s also a cameo at one point that feeds on these things that just feels spot on. However, although Cruise does bring his A-game, at the end of the day, Tom Cruise being a bit manic and sporting an accent still just feels like you’re watching Tom Cruise (which is more due to the actors level of fame than his acting). And as much as I like Tom Cruise, with him at the forefront (and, by extension his on-screen wife, Sarah Wright), it does give you a sense that the story has been made overtly more glamorous and idealised, which holds it back from being truly great.
In spite of that, American Made is a fun film that takes you in a lot of different directions, and subverts expectations from the get go.
Dir: Doug Liman
Scr: Gary Spinelli
Prd: Brian Grazer, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson, Doug Davison & Kim Roth
DOP: César Charlone
Music: Christoph Beck
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Alejandro Edda, Mauicio Mejia & Caleb Landry Jones
American Made is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download now.