Another pairing of Doug Liman and Tom Cruise, American Made is based on a true story. Cruise plays Barry Seal is a pilot who is recruited by C.I.A. Agent Monty ‘Schafer’ (Domhnall Gleeson) to do reconnaissance for the government. Seal ends up meeting with a blossoming cartel in Columbia led by Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) and Pablo Escobar (Mauricia Mejia) and is propositioned with smuggling drugs into the US.
American Made highlights Cruise’s charm
The film takes several liberties with the story, but Barry Seal was a real guy and known drug smuggler. Despite this fact, Cruise’s charisma makes him a likeable character who gets in over his head a bit. Once he’s in there is no getting out so he just keeps going. This leads to some funny gags about hiding of all the money he’s making. His wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) is skeptical of all the cash, but it seems too hard to pass up.
Cruise really delivers in this film. He carries the majority of the story and works well with Gleeson and Wright. Gleeson’s character always feels a little untrustworthy, but Seal falls in line relatively quickly. A fact he admits to in an interesting story telling device of home video tapes Seal recorded himself, which is seen some in the trailer.
Liman creates several very cool sequences in this film. One involves Seal landing a plane on a city street, one involves Seal’s brother-in-law, JB (Caleb Landry Jones), and several montages showing Seal’s systems. However, the choice to shoot much of the film freeform with a documentary style didn’t seem like the best one. There were some just bad shots in the film where people were being cut off the frame or too much erratic movement at times where it didn’t seem necessary.
Overall, American Made was an engaging story with an excellent performance by Cruise, Gleeson, and Wright. It’s also a story that makes you all the more skeptical about the way our government may handle certain situations. There are several websites out there who have taken the time to outline the “facts” from the exaggerations of the story, but the ideas proposed in the film do make you think. American Made earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.