Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and writer Gary Spinelli bring the “true story” of American airline pilot, CIA informant, and drug smuggler, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), to the big screen in this outrageous and endlessly entertaining black comedy. As with the majority of “true story” films, American Made focuses more on entertaining the audience rather than retelling a factual account of Barry Seal’s life and shady dealings with both the U.S. government and the Medellín Cartel. While we still get to see all of the outrageous and unbelievable encounters Seal had with government officials and the drug cartel alike, they are simply inaccurate. Some viewers may find the lack of facts cluttered throughout the fictional madness to be unpleasing however, with American Made, the film is made with such a profound kinetic energy and style, you cannot help but admire the beautifully controlled chaos on which unfolds onscreen.
American Made is easily Tom Cruise’s best performance and film since 2008’s Tropic Thunder. Cruise shines and ultimately steals every scene with his charming and ever so charismatic personality and swagger, mirroring that of Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, capturing both the brilliant and captivating essence of a lovable rogue. The film also features a stellar supporting cast with the likes of Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina) as the perplexing CIA operative ‘Schafer’, Sarah Wright (Parks and Recreation) as Seal’s delightfully charming and strong willed wife, along with Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) as the local loveable dim witted sheriff.
Doug Liman and cinematographer César Charlone wisely chose to film mainly with the use of handheld camera movement, lots of zoom-ins, and faced paced editing to give the audience the impression of watching a documentary. The cinematography may be jarring to some but, the intentional approach most certainly worked for the betterment of the film. A multitude of fabulous set pieces made for some exhilarating scenes throughout including an intense sequence in which Seal forcibly crash lands in a suburban neighborhood in protest of the DEA, who follow in pursuit close behind. Seal near fatally crashes into a home, bursts out of the plane door covered in cocaine head to toe grasping onto a bag full of dirty money, only to pedal away from the monumental crash site on a child’s bicycle as sirens are heard in the background. With absurd over-the-top sequences as such, you cannot help but smile and admire the filmmakers’ fearless approach of having fun with the source material and using Seal’s life as an outlet to poke fun at the laughably mind boggling antics of the U.S. government.
The 1970’s/80’s soundtrack and set design, faced paced editing, snappy dialogue, and marvelous character interactions make for a thrilling viewing experience from start to finish. American Made may be one of the year’s funniest and most entertaining films. Aside from some pacing issues here and there, making the 1hr 55min runtime feel much longer, the film has little to dislike and is an absolute blast to watch! American Made soars high and never fails to impress, 4.5 out of 5 stars (9/10).