Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by: Gary Spinelli
Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones
When it comes to foreign policy and essentially trying to get what they want, governments are willing to use their own citizens only to abandon them when the going gets tough. It’s a dirty game and everyone else simply serves as a pawn in the game. American Made details one of those stories as one man goes from a simple life to moving cocaine for Colombian cartels.
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) used to fly commercial flights until given the opportunity by CIA agent, Monty (Domhnall Gleeson) to make much more money running guns. After much success, Seal gets the opportunity to transport cocaine and with more lucrative deals comes the danger of messing with folks that have no problem taking care of anyone that becomes an inconvenience.
Ever since true crime and the show Narcos premiered, there has been this obsession with the cocaine drug trade that took over all of the Americas. Learning about the impact of Pablo Escobar on the American economy continues to astonish me. This story focuses on one of the many individuals that got wrapped up in this entire fiasco, which included cartels, revolutionary groups, and unsurprisingly, the United States government.
Seal’s trajectory in the film follows a sequence of events that always occurs when one gets financially involved with a cartel, especially one run by Pablo Escobar. That means the person starts humbly before accruing an immense amount of wealth, only to have everything fall from under them because messing with drugs never leads to a happy ending. Just ask Escobar. American Made assumes you know the plot and what will occur with Seal’s rise and fall but the film’s success hinges on trying to ensure the ride feels thrilling in-between, which it certainly accomplishes. Most of it comes from Tom Cruise and his almost comedic performance as Seal.
The amount of money that Seal accrues defies reason and borders on the ridiculousness of Breaking Bad where Walt essentially needed a storage unit to put away the money he earned. Similarly, Seal and his family must find a way to simply storing their money and they resort to putting it in suitcases and burying it in their yard. It leads to the funny gaffe in the trailer where Barry’s wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright) exclaims that their dog dug up one of the suitcases and that money is flying everywhere around the yard. Seal then responds by stating that he will just rake it up in the morning. It provides the humorous moments that will lead up to the horrifying moments that will soon ensue. Cruise puts on a fairly good performance as Seal as he rocks a southern accent and gets into these shenanigans. I’m not sure that the real Seal had the charisma that Cruise exhibits in the film, but it adds to the entertainment value of the story.
Doug Liman stepped up to direct the film and he has previously worked with Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow. They seem to have built an impressive rapport with one another and it shows with their collaboration in American Made. The flying sequences have the same intensity as another Tom Cruise flying 80s movie, but with this film, it has more purpose. Each flight could be life or death for Seal and the way those sequences come together add to that stress meant for the audience as we ride along with Seal during his pickup and delivery of shipments.
In addition to the fun and Seal’s rise and subsequent fall, American Made also displays the harshness of the United States government. Quite rich for us to go in and wreck governments in Latinx nations only to turn around and shut our borders to them. This film shows how the CIA turned a blind eye to Seal moving cocaine because they had the opportunity to sell guns to groups they wanted to bolster. Everything is a game and Seal only served as a pawn that would eventually be consumed. It eventually leads to the involvement of the Reagan Administration with the Iran-Contra Affair and how it directly used the services of Seal for trainings and transportation.
Even with the serious subject matter at times, the film takes a very light tone with the smugness that Cruise exhibits as Seal. Liman definitely wanted to mix the entertainment factor with the seriousness to create something enjoyable and he certainly achieved that. The film moved quickly and had a good pace to it. American Made can easily be enjoyed by anyone as it looks at the exploits of one man in a large game that goes way above his head.