American Made review
You have to admire the people that will do anything to provide for their family. There are those that work the long hours and ones who steal to feed their starving ones. I understand one has to do something in order to be sure that you kids can sleep soundly knowing they’ll have breakfast in the morning, but if someone is breaking the law or getting involved with the wrong people, is it still about the family or does it become a selfish need? A lot of that depends on what it is your providing. I guess that line should be drawn if you know there’s a chance that your own choices can get the people close to you hurt.
Today’s movie focuses on a real person who originally went to work for one thing, only to end up with more from the other side. It may have meant a bigger home, more cash, and a happier wife, but like a lot of darker stories involving a crime family, eventually gets too over their own heads. What makes these stories fascinating is how much is explored of their personality that gives them the impression that this is okay. Let’s see how American Made can do with this.
In 1978, airline pilot Barry Seal (played by Tom Cruise) is put into contact with the CIA through agent Monty Schafer (played by Domhnall Gleeson). Seal is asked to fly missions over Central America to take pictures of rebels and possible Soviet guerillas. He accepts, and is given a fast plane with cameras. Though he ends up getting shot at half of the time, Seal is a good enough pilot to fly there and back. During one of his flights, he’s taken by a Colombian cartel who offers him big cash to smuggle cocaine to the states. The greed gets the best of him and he accepts.
When the DEA starts to track him, the CIA moves Seal and his family to Arkansas, giving him a home along with a airport and two thousand acres. As the years go into the eighties, he ends up doing more such as exchanging information with rebels and even flying some of them to the states for military training. This gives Seal so much money that even the banks are running out of space to put it. How long will the CIA continue to turn the other cheek as Seal continues his mission? I will not dare reveal that.
Though I’ve seen drug smuggling stories before (I’m not even a big fan of them), American Made is not only very funny and informative, it’s actually a smart parody of the 1980’s obsession with materialism and Yuppie lifestyles. The film is shot a lot like a documentary, which gives it an edge to sell this guys story, which sounds like a Hollywood story (though it seems to insane to be made up). Intercut is a lot of explanation with ties to the White House and how this even connects to the Cold War and Gulf War.
Typically, Tom Cruise is the kind of actor who is rarely playing a part, and lets his charisma become the character. American Made doesn’t slip him into a role, but he seems perfect anyway as this kind of guy would have to be a Tom Cruise-type. As a matter of fact, I liked a good chunk of these actors like his wife, the cartel leaders and the CIA agent. They all sync in line with Tom Cruise and the comedy that this story entitles.
I’ll say though that as interesting as the story is, it suffers a lot of the same issue that I have with stories of people on top that eventually fall; them enjoying the riches. Had the movie cut at least fiteen minutes, this might have been one of my faovirtes of the year, but a lot of the movie is Tom Cruise using his money to build his home and the Arkansas town…and that’s it. It doesn’t show many of the characters questioning him (though it does get a subplot going that continues the film’s story) nor does it even show his character devolving. Despite the pacing, I can say that I still had fun with this.
I’ll give this four and a half beta cameras out of five. American Made feels like a documentary from the eighties that was just found now. It has a nostalgic feeling, but is cinematic enough to feel a bit timeless. Tom Cruise fans and history fans should have a good time with this.