American Made

Directed By: Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Alejandro Edda, Mauicio Mejia, Jesse Plemons, Lola Kirke, and Caleb Landry Jones

Tom Cruise gets no love from moviegoers these days.  This is abundantly clear to me.  While I’ve been fairly excited about this weekend’s American Made, I can’t say the same for all the folks with whom I’ve discussed the crime film.  I get it.  I really do.  Some see Tom Cruise as a man with Scientology baggage and too much familiarity after decades in the limelight.  Others say he is too old to play the role of a character verifiably in his 40s for the duration of the movie.  A rare few just don’t even like Cruise as an actor.  Regardless of what opinion these haters may hold, each and every one of them is dead wrong, especially when Cruise is reuniting with his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman.

A moderately successful commercial pilot for TWA, Barry Seal (Cruise) is living a rather ordinary life in Baton Rouge, LA with his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright).  He makes ends meet with the job he has but nothing more.  That’s the case at least until CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) walks into his life.  The flashy spy makes him an offer he can’t refuse.  The prospect of him doing the extraordinary and running reconnaissance missions on the enemy in Central America is too good to pass up.  As he begins to delve into the world of the clandestine, Barry just wishes it paid better.  When he lands in Colombia and meets Pablo Escobar (Mauicio Mejia) and his comrade Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda), he finds a hefty second stream of income.  As he gets the job done on all fronts, he earns the moniker “The Gringo who always delivers”.  All that being said, this life of espionage, drugs, and deceit can only lead to one place for Barry and his family—Mena, Arkansas.

The InfiltratorLoving Pablo.  Pablo Escobar and his drug empire have provided the perfect backdrop for many crime dramas on the silver screen and the big screen alike in recent years.  Tom Cruise vehicle American Made is the latest addition to this lengthy list.  What’s interesting about this one is that the Doug Liman’s take on the tale isn’t about Escobar for the most part.  It’s really about the opportunistic Barry Seal and the circumstances that turned his ordinary life into something extraordinary for a time.  Laced with archival footage from the 70s and 80s, pumping a soundtrack of classic tunes, and mixing in loads of laughs, Liman turns this drug-themed history lesson into a wild, raucous adventure that’s entertaining from start to finish.  A fast and loose delight with an intriguing narrative, American Made is one of the first great movies of the fall and is certainly one of my favorites of the year.

At the center of American Made, we have a phenomenal performance from the last true movie star Tom Cruise.  A risk taker who leaps before he looks, Cruise gives us one slick dude as pilot Barry Seal.  He’s endlessly charismatic with all his trademark charm.  He’s methodical as a man hungry for a certain kind of life.  He’s gutsy as a man willing to defy all political and societal norms in the name of the almighty dollar.  Yes, Tom Cruise is at the top of his game in American Made, and it certainly helps that he’s backed by a colorful supporting ensemble.  The film’s supporting players include Barry’s slippery CIA agent Monty Schafer portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson, his intimidating yet smooth Colombian bosses Pablo Escobar and Jorge Ochoa portrayed by Mauicio Mejia and Alejandro Edda, and most notably his morally loose and supportive wife Lucy portrayed by Sarah Wright.  They all deliver solid performances as well.

While American Made follows the arc of history, it does function like most crime dramas.  If you couple this with the fact that it’s delving into very familiar territory with the Medellín cartel, the film’s success is a testament to the potency of bringing Tom Cruise and Doug Liman back together again.  Consistently engaging, frequently hilarious, and occasionally thrilling, American Made is most assuredly one any crime or Cruise aficionado will enjoy.  American Made gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.