By Bradley Griffith
In his two movies released this year, Tom Cruise has stepped a little out of his comfort zone. He was the main character in “The Mummy” earlier this summer, his first horror film since “Interview With the Vampire” in 1994. Currently on the silver screen Cruise is starring in “American Made,” not his usual movie, but still very enjoyable.
Barry Seal (Cruise) is a pilot for TWA in the late 1970s. He’s bored with the endless monotony of his job. Each airport and city seem no different to him. In the midst of this mini mid-life crisis Barry is approached by Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson).
Schafer is with the CIA and he offers Barry a job flying a small plane over Central America taking low-altitude photos of points of interest to the CIA, mostly communist soldiers. Barry will own his very own plane and company. Barry would be his own boss and live an exciting life. Barry sees this opportunity as his salvation. He can finally escape the drudgery of his everyday life. The only problem is that his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), doesn’t feel the same way. They already have one child and one more is on the way. Lucy tells Barry that they need his job with TWA and all the benefits that come with it, mainly health insurance.
Despite his wife’s good advice, Barry quits working for TWA and starts his own company working for the CIA. He takes great pictures, while at the same time he’s also taking fire from the communist guerillas. As the early 1980s roll varound Schafer asks Barry to begin making exchanges with Colonel Manuel Noriega in Panama. Barry trades cash from the CIA in exchange for information from Noriega on the communists in the region.
But where Barry really gets in trouble is when he is approached/abducted by the Medellin drug cartel. Barry is told by the leaders of the largest drug cartel the world has ever seen that he will smuggle their cocaine to America in exchange for large amounts of cash. What could possibly go wrong?
“American Made” is based on a true story. It’s difficult to know what parts are true and what parts are dramatized, or outright fabricated, to make a better movie. According to the movie, Barry’s downfall was that he leaped into things without asking any questions and never said no. Hopefully the real Barry Seal was smarter, and he didn’t have dozens of suitcases around his house packed so tight with cash that bills were sticking out of the sides.
It’s unusual for Tom Cruise to play someone who isn’t the cool, athletic guy with all the gadgets and all the answers. But Cruise does a very good job with his lopsided smile playing the gregarious Barry Seal. Everybody loves Cruise’s version of Barry, and it’s hard not to. He tells everybody yes, does whatever they ask of him, and accepts his payment. Barry always delivers.
The storyline of the movie is also excellent. I knew nothing about Barry Seal going into the movie and was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns of the story. The filmmakers and writers found a way to present such serious topics in a light-hearted, fun, and funny way. Barry couldn’t stop himself from stumbling into more and more dangerous situations, and somehow the story became more amusing as the movie progressed. That’s good movie making.
“American Made” is a very entertaining and interesting look at recent history from the perspective of a background, but pivotal, character. There are no lulls to the story, no parts where your attention wanes or you think about getting up to use the restroom. The movie moves quickly and nearly every second is engaging. If you’re looking for a good time at the movies,
“American Made” is your best bet.
• • •
Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.