Film Review: American Made

Doug Liman’s American Made is an entertaining thriller which engages thanks to a charismatic performance from Tom Cruise, as well as an appealing style of storytelling.

The talents of Barry Seal, a domestic airline pilot, are recognised by a CIA agent, who wants Barry to use his skills to obtain information of the US’s adversaries in Central America. Barry uses this opportunity to simultaneously become a drug runner…

Doug Liman teams up with Tom Cruise once again (after Edge of Tomorrow) for American Made. The film is a biopic of pilot Barry Seal, focussing on the period when he begins working for the CIA. Although based on a true story, the film does not quite follow events precisely. Nevertheless, the timeline works to depict his life working for both the CIA and a notorious drug cartel.

The film begins with some archive news footage, immediately positioning the background for events. This is returned to later in the film for viewers to see how Seal’s story ties in to wider historical events. American Made is at once a character-driven piece and a commentary on US international politics in the late 1970s and 1980s. Director Liman and writer Gary Spinelli offer a pretty damning account of the higher echelons of US Government at this time. They even throw in a couple of name drops and brief appearances, ensuring that no one gets off unscathed.

The political climate made clear, the focus on the film is depicted in an engaging way. Barry is amoral, yet Liman gives viewers a protagonist they can root for. American Made is not a morality play; the protagonist has little guilt for his actions. In a way, the film suggests that he does what most people would do, given the opportunity.

It is refreshing to see Tom Cruise in a role which relies more on character than action, as has been the case of late. Whilst there is still sufficient action in this thriller, it is great to see Cruise as the antihero. Domhnall Gleeson and Sarah Wright are good in supporting roles, but really this is Cruise’s show.

American Made delivers a portrayal of what is perhaps the real American dream. One of the film’s strengths is its acknowledgement of this.

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