REVIEW: American Made
Directed by Doug Liman
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow), American Made stars Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot in the late 70s-early 80s who gets recruited by the CIA to spy on communists in Central America, and also gets roped into the Medellin drug cartel.
Doug Liman and Tom Cruise proved to be a winning combo in 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow, delivering a fun, fresh dose of adrenaline-filled adventure and a unique performance for Cruise. American Made is mostly fun and has its share of adrenaline-filled scenes, but it isn’t fresh.
The movie has an eccentric style of storytelling and technical construction, with videotape narration, idiosyncratic angles and zooms, and electric energy running throughout. It is a visually intricate and audacious movie to watch, but the current running underneath it all, story and character, is lacking.
Tom Cruise usually does play smug people who learn lessons about their arrogance in the end. This is no different for him as Barry Seal, but the redemption from Seal being a total asshole comes too late into the movie. The rest of the time Seal is just an unlikeable person, who lies, cheats, gambles, and falters his way from set piece to set piece. This is not interesting to watch. Sure, someone like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street is a despicable fiend, but he is played in such a unique way by Leonardo DiCaprio so we want to see more. Cruise’s portrayal of Seal is no different from nearly every single character Cruise has ever played.
When the detailed and claustrophobic plane action ramps up, American Made has a lot to offer. But there is a story that the movie wants to tell, and that is boring to see play out. Most of this movie feels like a mish-mash of War Dogs and GoodFellas, and not in a good way.
American Made is a better story told in something like Netflix’s Narcos, has some interesting and original visual styles, and the whole movie is just an average experience. Nothing too great, nothing too bad. Just the middle-ground.