Doug Liman directs this biopic on "the Gringo who always delivers". American Made tells the story of Barry Seal; a commercial airline pilot who went to work for the CIA flying reconnaissance and supply runs between the US and Central America. It was on these runs that Seal began working for the Medellin Cartel, bringing illegal drugs into the US.
Liman has managed to make a Tom Cruise movie that isn't a Tom Cruise movie. In recent years it seems Cruise's movies have been more about spectacle, some sort of death defying stunt to tick off of his bucket list; the Vomit Comet in The Mummy, strapping himself to the side of a plane during take off or climbing the world's tallest building in the Mission Impossible movies. But American Made is more character driven, about one man and the crazy life he led.
That's not to say Cruise didn't get to feed his adrenaline addiction on this one, because he did, flying solo in some pretty dangerous places. On the last day of filming, a plane crash claimed the lives of two crew members and seriously injured a third. But it's for this reason that Cruise is the perfect choice for this role, they share a similar spirit in that they're both mad, always looking for the next insane thing to do. You could say this is a role Tom Cruise was born to play.
The story follows the standard rise and fall arc, much like Goodfellas and Scarface. As with all biopics, American Made is about the journey, not the destination. Seal goes from a bored airline pilot to a highly successful drug smuggler with so much money he can't keep it buried (literally), a man who winds up on the radar of multiple law enforcement agencies. I went in with a basic knowledge of Seal's story, in fact anyone who has seen The Infiltrator with Bryan Cranston will have some idea of how the story ends. But it really doesn't matter, the story is such a wild ride from start to finish that you really have to see it to believe it!
This is one of those crazy tales that exists in that strange place where politics, espionage and crime overlap. American Made may not delve deep into who the man was, but it is an exciting look at what Barry Seal achieved as one of the biggest drug smugglers in American history.
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