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Film Review – American Made (2017)

Before the calendar switches to October and the awards season begins, Tom Cruise and Doug Liman are back with another collaboration in American Made, the story of Barry Seal.  This absurdly true story promises a devishly good time with eye-winking, comedic performances from a solid cast.  The following review will be spoiler free.

American Made

Synopsis

American Made is directed by the previously mentioned Doug Liman and stars the MovieBabble acclaimed best movie star, Tom Cruise.  At his side are actors such as Domhall Gleeson and Sarah Wright.

Barry Seal (Cruise), a Trans World Airlines pilot, is somehow recruited by the CIA to provide recon information on a growing threat of communism in Central America.  Seal quickly becomes the head of the operation which becomes one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States.  However, Seal proves that his morals are less than ideal as he begins to smuggle drugs, causing the rise of the Medellin Cartel.

Naturally, Seal loses control of the situation, leading to an absolutely bonkers chapter of American history.

Background

American Made did not have the easiest of productions.

A serious plane crash on set derailed the film for quite some time.  The crash occurred on September 11th, 2015, killing two people and causing serious injury to another crewmember.  Bad weather in Medellin, Columbia caused the crash.  Ultimately, conditions were too unsafe for a plane to land.  MovieBabble‘s condolences go out to the families of Carlos Berl and Alan Purwin, the unfortunate casualties in the incident.  People fail to realize that films can be quite dangerous, hopefully this is a stark reminder.

As for the release of the film, it was actually meant to hit theaters in January of this year, but was inexplicably moved to its currently release date.  Some speculate that the film didn’t want to compete against Underworld: Blood Warsalthough I can’t imagine a movie with Doug Liman and Tom Cruise having trouble against that dumpster fire of a movie.

Then again, Flatliners is American Made‘s only competition this weekend, so maybe the change was an intelligent one.

Cruise Does it Again

Although his personal life keeps him from being universally loved, Tom Cruise once again proves why he’s one of the best around.  American Made cruises (sorry, bad pun) off of his charm and quick wit.

For awhile now, Cruise’s character has been “action man,” failing to distinguish each character from each other in some regard.  We’ve all been okay with such performances because, let’s face it, Cruise is a pretty likable leading man.  However, Cruise has channeled his younger self in American Made, becoming a clever, cunning individual with a bit of a Southern twang.

Every event in American Made is told through his point of view, requiring a dynamic performance to power the film.

Plus, it’s just always fun to watch Tom Cruise curse.  We don’t get to see that very often these days!

American Made = Zany

American Made is in the hands of a very capable director in Doug Liman.  Adding to the film’s fun nature, Liman shoots the film predominantly with handheld cameras.  Considering that everything in the film is based off of a crazy, true story, this style of shooting creates a faux documentary element to the film.  This style is almost done with a wink to the audience, adding to American Made’s heightened sense of realism.

Liman keeps control of this story as it continues to become more and more insane as every minutes passes.  You can feel the pace of the film build gradually over the course of approximately two hours.  In fact, even the editing picks up speed in the second and third acts, subconsciously telling you to prepare for a crazy ride.  Animation shorts are even placed within the context of the events, adding to the movie’s silly nature.

The story of Barry Seal manages to be more than just the usual story of the rise and fall of excess.  It may not be the most creative film this year, but it’s certainly more than the usual generic film.  Liman never loses sight of the seriousness of the story, but the actual events of the story lends to a comical retelling which he pulls off exceedingly well.

Can’t Help But Feel Derivative to Films that Did it Better

For all its flair, however, American Made can’t help but feel like a knock-off of similar stories.  The film follows the typical Scorsese plot construction of the rise and fall of an eccentric, flawed character.  We see Barry Seal’s humble beginnings which quickly turn into the definition of excess as his delves further and further into shady actions.  The film channels movies like Casino or The Wolf of Wall Street but isn’t nearly as entertaining or wacky.

There’s a lot of films that document the rise and fall of an historical figure.  Many might exclaim that there’s even too many.  American Made needed to change the game in order to be revered by audiences.  However, it settles for being perfectly enjoyable.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with that description, but it keeps American Made from becoming a must-see feature.

American Made is a competent film.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Final Thoughts

American Made is as crazy as the true story at its core.  Doug Liman has directed a film that is different from your usual fare.  Tom Cruise even does his best and powers the film to a great ride in the lead role.  It might not be among the best in its genre, but the film is incredibly competent and a breeze to get through.  It gets a B+.

The film probably won’t win any awards in the coming Oscar season.  But, does every film have to?  I certainly don’t think so.  American Made is just plain fun.  Sometimes, that’s all you need in a movie.

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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

1 Response

  1. Nick Kush says:

    As a note, I’m continuing to look for writers for the MovieBabble writing staff. If you would like to write for MovieBabble, head over to https://moviebabblereviews.com/join-moviebabble/ and submit an application!

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