If it did not say right there on the movie poster that this is based on a true story, then there would be no way that I would believe that the ridiculous situations portrayed in American Made could be something that actually happened. Truthfully, I still have my doubts.
However, there is no doubt that American Made, the new movie from the teaming of Tom Cruise and Doug Limon (the last being Edge of Tomorrow) is an entertaining romp delivering a healthy dose of late 70’s-early 80’s world fun and questionable choices.
Tom Cruise plays Barry Seal, a skilled pilot who is going through the motions in TWA until he is recruited by ‘Schafer’ (Domhnall Gleeson) to fly reconnaissance missions for the CIA, photographing high end targets in Central America. From there, Seal winds up transporting everything from cocaine for Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejía), guns for the US Government and Contra soldiers into the US. Along the way, Seal was making enough money that he was literally not sure what to do with it all.
Tom Cruise is entertaining here, despite there not being too much depth to Barry Seal. He is an amazing pilot, but he never comes off as too bright and certainly comes off as morally bankrupt. Any time someone offered him a job for a bag full of cash, he would do it, without concern for what he was doing. Calling Seal an anti-hero is quite a stretch. He is a criminal.
The film does show Seal as a loving husband and father, which is meant to show the redeeming side to him and it does partially work, especially with the star caliber of Tom Cruise behind it. However, you have to wonder why Seal was such a danger junkie or why he was so money obsessed and the film does not truly give us any insight into the character.
The film does play for laughs many times and it works much more than it doesn’t. Unfortunately, the tone set by the film does detract from some of the more serious scenes and the scene at the very end does not feel as if it fit with this movie at all.
Bigger questions here are exactly how corrupt is the governments of the world and what do they do just because they can. This film takes place in the build up to the Iran-Contra Affair that causes all kinds of controversy in the later years of the 20th Century.
I enjoyed the style and format the film presented itself in, with Barry Seal providing the voice of the narrator on old tapes of him speaking. Some of the exposition is shown in creative imagery with animation or almost 4th wall breaking style. These moments worked well for the most part, though a couple of them were distracting.
The pace of the film felt off as when the film progressed from one year to another. It seemed as if the timeline was too off. It did feel like a long film, but there were times that it felt like no time had passed, but it was actually a year or two.
I found several problems with the film, but yet it was entertaining enough and downright absurd enough to recommend. Cruise is good here and the way the different government agencies worked here was a fascinating look at a time in our history when even the good people were doing downright crooked things. The film does feel a little fluff for the situation (and the ending was way out of left field), but I enjoyed it none the less.