In the late 1970s, TWA pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) leaves his mundane job after being recruited by the CIA to fly recon missions over South American countries. Eventually, he’s also hired by the Cartel so he basically stockpiles guns and drugs, launders money and makes exhilarating aerial escapes in American Made (2017).
Director Doug Liman reunites with Cruse after Edge of Tomorrow (2014) for a groovy adaptation of a based-on-true-events story about a pilot who smuggled drugs for the Colombians and arms to Nicaragua for the Reagan administration. Seal becomes a comically productive employee, and Cruise is, of course, the right person for the task. Lightweight, but fun, with amusing period details and a George W. Bush “cameo.”
American Made is one of the highest-rated mainstream releases this year and I can see why. Tom Cruise’s charismatic performance and good ol’ boy sensibility wins the audience over. Big time. Cruise propels himself to be a high-octane fireball of energy and he’s more than committed–he’s downright capable. It’s a performance of complete exhaustion and any other actor couldn’t have handled it with the same laudable poise and vigor.
Tom’s latest work belongs to the same genre as The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and War Dogs (2016). All three stories are set during turbulent times in American politics, celebrating excess and highlighting rampant corruption through cynical humor. If you enjoy a tale with an anti-hero at its core and plentiful observations about the unethical political landscape, this one’s for you.
Cinematographer Cesar Charlone (City of God) delivers American Made with an old school visual palette. The film resembles the high fidelity quality of a VHS tape, starting with the Universal logo all the way to the grainy credits. The mise-en-scène bears the kind of underwhelming and awkward primary colors you’d find opening a 70s porn flick when you should be asleep.
Doug Liman choreographs the stunts and handles the aviation scenes with clarity and precision with snappy editing and infectious energy. American Made is a well-made romp with Cruise in solid form.