American Made Review

American Made

Another day, another true-life crime biopic.

Doug Liman teams up with his Edge of Tomorrow star to bring the colourful story of Adler Berriman ‘Barry’ Seal to the big screen in American Made.

Tom Cruise plays Seal, a young TWA pilot who gets his kicks occasionally faking turbulence and smuggling the odd spot of contraband.

On one such run during the late seventies, Seal is accosted by the CIA. It aint about the contraband. Rather, it’s about his skills as a pilot and how he can put them to better use by serving his country.

The CIA, represented by the enigmatic Mr Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), basically want Seal to take aerial photographs of various situations brewing in Central America. His cover story? He works for IAC. Geddit?

Seal goes along with the plan, and to great effect, though not without the occasional grumble about remuneration. With a growing young family to support, Seal needs to earn a harder currency than mere patriotism.

During one of his photography trips, he is brought before a group of ‘local businessmen’ including Jorge Luis Ochoa Vasquez and one Pablo Escobar. Also known as the Medellin Cartel.

Like the CIA, the Cartel too see the potential in Seal’s skills as a pilot, and before long he is smuggling cocaine into Louisiana. Money problems solved.

To paraphrase Seal, things start to go a little crazy from there.

Like Seal’s planes, the script has a lot of ground to cover. The main action takes place between 1978 and 1985, spanning the presidencies of Carter and Reagan. Liman handles the pacing well, helped by the odd montage thrown in here and there.

The cast is generally strong, particularly Caleb Landry Jones in a brief turn as Seal’s wayward brother in law, but there are slight missteps.

The usually reliable Gleeson feels a little miscast as Schafer, while Sarah Wright does what she can with the thinly-written role of Lucy.

It would admittedly have been interesting to explore Lucy’s attitude towards her husband’s activities as this feels a little short-changed, presumably due to time constraints; as long as the money flows in, Lucy seems morally ok with it.

That said, the vast supporting cast takes a collective backseat to Cruise whether they like it or not.

Like him or loathe him, the Cruisemeister seems to be on best form when playing characters with a level of moral ambiguity, such as in Magnolia or Collateral. As a character, Seal therefore suits him well.

Sure, that cheesy grin grates at times, but it takes a Cruise-level of charisma to sell a character who is depicted as not having loyalty to any side and whose primary concern is chasing the humble dollar.

When it comes to the film’s overall depiction of the American dream, there does seem to be something more subversive going on. At one point, Seal is genuinely frustrated about the amount of

cash he has and how to store it, and the inevitable downfall, when it comes, suggests it was all not worth it.

Couple this with the movie’s attitude towards Reagan’s stance on Central America and you have an entertaining, well-made film that has a lot more to say than your average biopic

Conor Brennan

One Response to “American Made Review”
  1. avatar David Murphy says:

    Great review. Very insightful.

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Dates ‘n stuff

August 2017