Film Review: American Made

Everyone has missteps in their career. For some people, it derails their entire path. For others, it is a minor blip on the radar. For others, it barely has any effect. Earlier this year saw the release of The Mummy, an action movie remake starring Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe as a way to kick off the new Dark Universe series of classics like Dracula, Wolfman, etc. If you had told me beforehand that that movie would end up sucking the meat missile, I never would have believed you. Indeed though, it was one of the worst (maybe THE worst) Tom Cruise film I have ever seen. But once again, Cruise bounces right back and ends up with another hit on his hands.

So begins the tale of American Made which is based on the very real true story involving government corruption, drug cartels and the underlying question – who is really at fault and who are the real criminals in this whole situation? Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is just a TWA pilot until opportunity comes knocking in the form of CIA operative Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleason). Barry is at first tasked with taking photographs over countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. However, he is soon sidetracked by members of the Medellin cartel to deliver cocaine for them back into the USA. Eventually, Barry is working for essentially all sides of the coin – however, with all of that pressure from all angles, will it eventually catch up to him?

This was a fun movie. Above all else, it was fun. Tom Cruise gives his usual great smirk-fueled action movie performance with a little more substance than usual and leads the whole thing with pizazz. Cruise is more than swagger in this movie though; he is a guy way over his head throughout the whole thing. He doesn’t know how to handle excess. At one point in the movie, he remarks that he’s run out of places to stash all his money he’s made from various illegal avenues. Domhnall Gleason gets some good material out of his mysterious operative character. Most of the early scenes with he and Cruise don’t give us a lot of insight but later scenes involving Gleason in his cubicle getting razzed by his co-workers allows us more of a look at the duality of his character: the sheen that he puts on with his flashy persona compared to the put-upon nature of his everday appearance.

The focus on Cruise’s family life wasn’t handled quite as well as it really needed to be as you never really got the sense of his wife’s perspective on the whole matter other than being excited about all the money and then scared when the consequences started rolling in. The one thing involving his home life that was done fairly well was the inclusion of Barry’s brother-in-law JB (Caleb Landry Jones, who was suitably chilling earlier this year in Get Out) as it allowed the story to take some bigger level stakes and help to up the intensity level of the film.

There are not as many action sequences as you may think based on the trailer but much of the suspense comes from simpler things and moments like Cruise peering around a corner not quite sure what he’ll see this time. In fact, there is one thing that occurs late in the film while Barry is watching the news that has such an impact on his life that the movie just comes crashing down on the viewer as one of those “oh sh*t” moments. It’s more effective than anything that happened in The Mummy.

The film doesn’t really let up too much at any given moment even though it does feel like it could’ve lost a few minutes here and there as far as the runtime was concerned.

RATING: *** ½


Rating System:

Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)

* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)