If Maverick from Top Gun dropped out of the elite flight school and became a smuggler, odds are he would have turned into cocky pilot Barry Seal who is the focus of the new film American Made directed by Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise. The big difference though between Lt. Pete Mitchell and the former TWA Pilot at the center of this story is Maverick was fake, Barry Seal was a real person who formed an alliance with the CIA that helped him build personal relationships with all the notorious figures of the 1980s including Pablo Escobar, Manuel Noriega and Oliver North.
All this covert interactions where political lines are blurred turns American Made into a wild period piece that allows Tom Cruise slip into his comfort zone with an outlaw persona. This role is vintage Cruise playing the type of character that originally made him a star in the first place back in the 80s where a majority of this film takes place. American Made would best be described as a criminal crowd pleaser that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat with big smiles as Cruise shows off his charm as the risky pilot who has a knack for smuggling. This makes people on all sides the conflict in Central and South America eager to exploit Seal’s talents in the sky for their own personal or political gain.
Doug Liman covers a lot of ground through American Made, but keeps the film moving at a fast pace that doesn’t get bogged down in one certain story. All the jobs Barry takes are fun to watch with each undertaking getting crazier than the next as the pilot gains suitcases full of cash and surprising political power due to the contacts Barry creates in his travels. There are even some cool production elements of American Made that gives the film a retro look with nifty editing to help with narrative.
The true life story of Barry Seal was ripe with potential for a fascinating film, but the wrong person in the role could have caused this project to crash-land before takeoff. That is not the case for American Made, because Tom Cruise is excellent as the renegade rags to riches pilot who is involved in numerous global conspiracies. This is a role tailor-made for Cruise and the actor takes advantage of the opportunity bringing the brash and funny Barry to life. The anti-hero is an easy figure to root for with his cowboy attitude concerning breaking the law and the company he keeps. Cruise is a one man show as Barry Seal in American Made and reminds us why he was once the biggest star in the world.
Overall, I give American Made 3.25 out of 4 stars.
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