American Made

Director: Doug Liman.
Screenplay: Gary Spinelli.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, Lola Kirke, Jayma Mays, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez, E. Roger Mitchell, Jed Rees, Mauricio Mejía, Jason Warner Smith.

“It ain’t about room, alright? It’s about weight”

Say what you will of Tom Cruise as I’m fully aware that some don’t take to him at all but, personally, I’ve always been a fan. That said, it’s been some years since I’ve fully embraced a film of his as nothing has really showcased his abilities. As good as they were, I turned a little cold on the Mission: Impossible series where Cruise seemingly focused on being an action star for a while. American Made, however, sees him return to what he does best. This is a tailor made role for the likes of Cruise’s cocksure mannerisms and shit-kicking grin. In fact, the film thrives on him in the lead which makes this very enjoyable entertainment.

Plot: In 1978, skilled airline pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is contacted by CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleason), who employs him to photograph communist facilities over Central America. Barry accepts but it’s not long before he’s contacted by the Medellin Cartel to transport drugs back to the USA. Before he knows it, Barry is making millions in drug and gun-running which involves everyone from the FBI, the ATF, the CIA and the the Contras in Nicaragua. The longer it goes on, however, the harder it becomes for Barry to get out.

I’ve now lost count of the amount of films that portray a character that spirals out of control once involved in some drug running or criminal activity. Tv’s Breaking Bad became a critically acclaimed phenomenon for a start but the ones that spring to mind, when comparing American Made to anything, are the 70’s set Johnny Depp film Blow and, in terms of its style and vibrancy, Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Now, I wouldn’t put this in the same class as Scorsese’s masterpiece but it’s equally as good as (if not better than) the aforementioned Ted Demme film. There’s a lot of style and pizazz to Doug Liman’s portrayal of this very interesting time in American history. He gleefully exposes the political machinations behind the events and doesn’t pull punches in indicting President Ronald Reagan, Governor Bill Clinton and the CIA in there involvement with such a huge drug running cartel and their intentions to quash a South American uprising from the Sandinistas. Put simply, everyone had their fingers in a lot of pies at this time in America and Barry Seal happened to be “the gringo that always delivers“. It’s serious stuff but what makes it so enjoyable is because Cruise injects such a tongue-in-cheek zaniness to the whole affair while Liman confidently handles the material with a great eye for the 70’s and 80’s period detail and intercuts the film with news footage of the events as and when they came to public knowledge. It’s a good case of truth being stranger than fiction and that’s what grabs your attention as you roll with the ridiculously over-the-top scenarios.

Cruise is hugely appealing here. His southern accent adds another dimension and character to his resumé that’s refreshing to see. He can play these characters in his sleep but it’s been a while since we’ve seen it. It feels like old school Cruise and it’s a pleasure to have him return.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Ron Howard was considered to direct but lost to Doug Liman.


10 Responses to “American Made”

  1. Awesome. We both reside in the fan camp of Cruise. I gave been thinking of renting this. I am glad it is a role that encourages an acting stretch.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, there’s a real appealing nature to Cruise, Cindy. He’s a bonafide movie star but he’s also a great actor when given the right material. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Solid entertainment!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Watched last night, enjoyed and will review, some good comments and summary.

    Like you I am a fan of Cruise, he is perhaps the only true “film star” in the classic sense, we have left.

    Always professional and film crews always speak well of him

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found it it to be thoroughly good entertainment, Jules. And you’re right! Cruise is a true “film star” and a very underrated actor. It’s hard not to find him appealing.


  3. You liked this more than me, mate! Cruise is as typically energetic as ever in this, but I am got a bit fed up with him last year, and too much of the film felt like a Scorsese fast-paced montage rip-off to me. It’s a great technique if you want to move things along quickly and show things developing in a relatively short period of time, but when it takes over the film like it does here I just think it stops you from properly getting to know the characters and everything is happening too quickly. On top of that I didn’t buy Gleeson at all, and I’m not sure why Plemons’ character was in the film; I guess a lot of his scenes must have been cut out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe it’s because I hadn’t watched a (recent) Cruise film for some time but I found him to be perfect for this role. I totally agree on the Goodfellas rip-off but it’s a style I enjoy and I thought it worked fairly well here.

      Gleason was unconvincing but he’s still a good enough actor to make me forget and I had completely forgot that Plemons was even in it. I suppose that says plenty.

      Still, I enjoyed this man. It wasn’t anything new but a good way to pass some time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fair enough. I have a feeling the Plemons character was meant to be more significant at some point in time. I had a few weeks last year where I saw this, the second Jack Reacher and The Mummy in quick succession, and didn’t really go for any of them! I also rewatched a couple of older films like Magnolia, so I definitely had my fill of that grin last year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I skipped Jack Reacher and The Mummy. I didn’t fancy them at all. Maybe that’s why it felt like I hadn’t seen Cruise for a while. I did revisit Eyes Wide Shut again recently and that also reaffirmed for me that he can be a solid actor sometimes. Magnolia is still my favourite performance of his, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Finally someone who recognise the oft used expression on the internet “Say what you will about Tom Cruise……”. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

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