Former TWA pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) becomes a drug smuggler - and a secret CIA agent recruited to help counter the emerging communist threat in Central America. A major CIA operation leads to his involvement with the Medellin cartel, eventually an embarrassment for the Reagan White House. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Louise Keller:
It's a great yarn. Based on a true story, American Made is jam-packed with elements so extraordinary, the mind boggles. As incredible as Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, Doug Liman's fast-paced tale is a combo of character study and action movie, offering Tom Cruise the golden opportunity to play an ordinary man caught up in bizarre circumstances. It's a great role for Cruise, whose recent outings in big blockbuster franchises like Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher have limited his options to be as vulnerable as some of his earlier films - like Risky Business (1983), Top Gun (1986) and The Firm (1993). Here, complete with his boyish charm under tousled hair, he thinks on his feet as he plays a rogue pilot who navigates a bumpy but lucrative path with the CIA before ratcheting up the risks and playing both sides.
When we meet Barry Seal (Cruise) in 1978, he is a TWA pilot bored with the daily grind, working an unforgiving schedule away from his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) and family. 'Is it legal?' Barry asks, when Domhnall Gleeson's CIA agent Monty Schafer offers him a job piloting the fastest twin-engine plane across South American drug country in a covert operation. 'If you're not caught; you're doing it for the good guys,' is the reply. Schafer is suitably unfathomable and as Barry 'leaps before he looks', the onus is on Cruise to carry the burden of risk throughout.
Gary Spinelli's adept screenplay allows us to high dive straight into the action as Barry becomes inadvertently involved in a risky business involving spying, drug running, money laundering and transporting guns. He is 'the gringo who delivers'. The fact that Lucy initially believes he is still working as a TWA pilot adds to the texture of the exposition. The scene in which Barry and the Colombian drug lords negotiate how to deliver the packages of cocaine is one of the funniest with Barry taking off from a runway that is much too short.
Tension mounts and so do the stakes. Soon there are not enough places to stash the cash. What goes up must come down and as Barry scrambles to resolve every anxious situation, things escalate and unravel as Colombian drug lords, the DEA, FBI, CIA, State Police and the White House become involved.
Superb storytelling, tense action, wonderful use of music, a lively sense of fun and Tom Cruise at his very best in a tale that is - well - extraordinary. In short, it's great entertainment.
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AMERICAN MADE (MA15+)
CAST: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Wright, Kevin L. Johnson, Connor Trinneer, Jed Rees, Benito Martinez
PRODUCER: Vrian Grazer, Kim Roth, Tyler Thompson
DIRECTOR: Doug Liman
SCRIPT: Gary Spinelli
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Cesar Charlone
EDITOR: Saar Klein, Andrew Mondshein, Dylan Tichenor
MUSIC: Christophe Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Weil
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 24, 2017