A film being based on a true story will always get me interested because of the fascination in finding out a tiny fragment of history. You often get told stories that aren’t as big and renowned. American Made is an example of one such film.
The story begins with an airline pilot called Barry Seal. Through his minor smuggling of Cuban cigars, he gets on the radar of the CIA and begins surveillance for them in Central America. After just a little while, Barry is running drugs for Pablo Escobar paying off dirty military and running weapons, playing both sides for maximum profit.
Tom Cruise stars as Barry and is his usual charismatic self- charming and smooth, he strays a tricky line between comedy and drama and does so well. It is the first role he has taken on like this in some years but he makes the role of Barry very believable in a film that is understandably manic! Domhnall Gleeson fills in the role of Barry’s CIA contact and Sarah Wright plays Barry’s wife. Everyone obviously had great fun making this film but Gleeson felt a bit one-dimensional and Wright was significantly underutilised, so much so that Barry’s actions left less emotional impact on the viewer other than humour. Overall the performances were good but I just wanted more from some of the characters.
Doug Liman directed this film and did so in a very slick way. The scenes flow pretty well together and at a fast pace in a narrative that seems just as crazy as it must have been in real life. The best part of American Made is what I mentioned in the opening paragraph- this story is a fascinating one and ties together so many bombastic events and you watch in awe as they play out. Comedy is a big part of the way they are shown, however, one stand-out dramatic moment came towards the end. Cruise leads you through it wonderfully as you soon realise the inevitability of his life. Barry’s actions are not explained particularly well but it comes together in a satisfying conclusion nonetheless.
A few other minor points that occur to me as obvious negatives come from a little bit of lengthy story, mostly derived from repetition. A couple of moments essentially get repeated a few times over, providing no real narrative drive and it also means that fireworks get overused. Yes, you read that correctly. Fireworks. They are used numerous times in celebratory scenes and montages and are particularly unnecessary on the third or fourth time you see them. Barry’s life was exciting. I got that.
I did enjoy the film overall and it is wonderful to see Cruise go back to a different role for him. He has some great and diverse films as a younger man and I welcome him doing more like those. He is the highlight of this film where many other characters seem a little bland. American Made is still fun but not as fresh as it could be. Get watching!