MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr 55 min
The story of Barry Seal, an American pilot who became a drug-runner for the CIA in the 1980s in a clandestine operation that would be exposed as the Iran-Contra Affair.
A scene from American Made features Tom Cruise as Barry Seal talking on a confessional tape, where he says he helped build an army, a nation and a drug cartel the likes of which the world had never seen. American Made is the story of a commercial pilot turned drug smuggler turned DEA informant, Barry Seal. This biographical film on a man of crime and hustle features a story that's as interesting if not more, than Pablo Escobar's. Tom Cruise gives a stellar performance in a film that’s Breaking Bad meets Catch Me If You Can.
The story begins as Barry flies a TWA aircraft with candour and charisma. His reputation of smuggling contraband for South American clients outs him under the scanner of the CIA. An agent named Schafer (Domnhall Gleeson) hires Barry as a secret pilot to go click communist military bases in South American countries. The reconnaissance job gets Barry an audience with the Medellin Cartel in Colombia headed by Pablo Escobar. One thing leads to another and Barry goes on to build quite the reputation and career in aviation, espionage and drug smuggling. This story has more drama and twists and hair raising adventures than all of Errol Flynn's movies put together. Barry Seal's life was a minefield of information. Gary Spinelli's writing adds a great cinematic flavour to this tall tale. The CIA, FBI and even the Oval Office get a few skeletons thrown in to their closets.
The centrepiece of this movie though is a Top Gun and Jerry Maguire level performance by Cruise. He's really in his element, playing the thrill seeking pilot who literally changes the course of world political history. There's no Mission Impossible style action this time, just pure Cruise control charisma behind the wheel of a character that's vivid and engaging. Sara Wright as Seal's wife plays a superb role too.
Director Doug Liman has made some fantastic films before (The Bourne Identity, Fair Game and The Edge Of Tomorrow) but his skill as a filmmaker shines the most with American Made. His choices of the retro treatment of visuals to the choice of music and the hand-held cinematography make this movie a truly refreshing experience. The narrative is taut and Liman packs in more drama scene by scene than Escobar's legends.
American Made is funny, insightful, controversial and spunky all at once. This movie tells the American side of the story behind Pablo Escobar's rise to the top. Cruise’s performance adds the star power while Liman's characteristic crisp storytelling makes this movie as exhilarating as a good batch of Colombian cocaine. This crime drama has thrills and spills on speed.