Movie Review – ‘American Made’ is one funny spin on true events

Maybe it’s just an odd coincidence, but the last two movies I have seen in the theater are throwback action flicks. The latest being “American Made,” starring the polarizing Tom Cruise. No need to bury the lead here as most people either tolerate Cruise or want nothing to do with him based on his ties to Scientology. But, this film’s story is bigger than Cruise at the end of the day. He just happened to be the actor anchoring it, so if you are willing to set aside our opinions and just watch this film, you will be rewarded.

Based loosely on true events surrounding Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a former TWA airline pilot turned drug smuggler, this late 70s to early 80s story does a lot with very little. Meaning, I’m very impressed with both Doug Liman did with Gary Spinelli’s script. I have always maintained you don’t need much to make a movie as long as you have the right director. Well, that was definitely the case here give there is really not much to this story once you run through the background of Barry Seal. Sure, there is definitely some intrigue around Seals dealings with the Medellin drug cartel and how he ends up being an informant for the CIA when caught leading to the Iran-contra affair, but that is just part of why this was so cool to watch. You see, Seal is the story here and I think that’s what people are missing given the time period it took place in. All Limon and Spinelli did was embellish a few aspects of the truth to create something worthwhile. Limon said so himself stating it was a “fun lie based on a true story.” So who am I to judge?

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It’s hard to gauge any film Tom Cruise is in simply because you can’t always trust the source. It’s just a fact worth noting given some might grade this a little harder than it deserves. Truth is, this wasn’t one of his best roles, but what is anymore? Bottom line is he was good and a lot of fun to watch even though I am a tad bit biased. Sure, Cruise doesn’t look the part if you pull up images of the real Barry Seal, but who cares. He still makes you believe and that’s all we should care about in the end. I just hope we continue to see Cruise in these kwaze comedic/dramatic roles, as it gives us a chance to see how funny he can be in a story not meant to be funny. Complimenting Cruise where she could was Sarah Wright, who played his wife Lucy Seal. For someone I have never seen before, she was OK and was able to use this opportunity to show what she is worth. So kudos to Limon for finding someone that had some natural ability to them, which to me works extremely well opposite the high-octane Cruise.

Again, there’s really no need to make something out of nothing with “American Made.” It is what it is and Doug Limon is OK with that. He took Spinelli’s script and winded it around some really neat action sequences blended with old-school cinematography from one Cesar Charlone, whose last notable film was the Oscar-nominated “City of God.”  Well, glad to have you back Charlone as I thoroughly enjoyed all the different colors and/or sets integrated into Limon’s well timed shots. It was actually surprisingly a good mesh of styles and one I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Then again, Limon has been known to get a lot of mileage out of his cinematographer’s work in the past (i.e. “Swingers,” “The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”), so it was just a lot of fun to see how rich this film felt given the time period it represented. Limon even was able to pull off a zero-gravity love sequence along the way, which I’ll admit looked great in real time. So, maybe this story is familiar, but who cares. All films take a page from others, so that’s no real argument to me and one that honestly is a little overworked. I don’t want perfection all the time when I go to the movies, so it’s nice to see something like “American Made,” a film that in no way should be taken seriously.

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