American Made movie review: Another memorable entertainer from the house of Tom Cruise, Doug Liman

Mihir Fadnavis

Sep,29 2017 12:27:59 IST

3.5/5

Tom Cruise is well and truly the last Hollywood star. It’s hard to think of any other ‘heroes’ left in Hollywood for whom you’d genuinely go to the multiplex to watch a movie. And despite the mild craziness he seems to display off screen he’s the most consistent star out there, with very few bad films in his 25-year resume.

American Made is yet another entertaining and memorable movie from the team of Cruise and his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman. It’s the kind of smart yet breezy and stylish entertainment you see very little of nowadays, and it’s also the rare film that lets Cruise go unhinged. The last time we saw him do that was in Tropic Thunder.

Poster for American Made. Image courtesy Facebook/@BarrySealMovie

Poster for American Made. Image courtesy Facebook/@BarrySealMovie

So what’s this one about? Like some Scorsese films, American Made is a sprawling story that chronicles the late '70s and '80s through the eyes of a certain Barry Seal (Cruise) who shifted careers from being an airline pilot to a cigar smuggler to a CIA agent who surreptitiously smuggled guns to the Contras in Nicaragua and also worked for one of the biggest drug cartel moving drugs from South to North America. It sets the platform for swirling, frenzied story telling as Cruise’s character pretty much bounces from one insane setup to another, finding himself in chaotic highs and lows.

What works best is how director Liman embraces the pace and absurdity of Seal’s life. On paper there’s nothing really new here since we’ve seen this sort of filmmaking in Goodfellas, but Liman’s stylish direction makes everything feel fresh. There are some animated sequences used to demonstrate historic lessons, making sure the film is idiot proof. That way when the film gets into serious stuff like the Iran Contra affair, those not familiar with history will find it easy to keep up with the momentum of the film.

Shot by City Of God cinematographer César Charlone, the fast and loose attitude of the film's tone almost gives you the impression of this being a Top Gun sequel, so the casting of Cruise gets into meta levels. Domnhall Gleeson renders a fun performance as the CIA guy who hires Seal to do the dirty work, and Caleb Landry Jones (from the delightfully messed up Antiviral) gives another wonderfully weird performance best left for you to discover. The unconventional filmmaking is a nice throwback to Liman’s earlier films Go and Swingers which demonstrated more of his style rather than the studio made mainstream outputs like The Bourne Identity and Mr and Mrs Smith.

The only major issue with the film is that the character of Seal never truly changes throughout the film — there’s a steady graph of escalation but there’s no real dynamic that shifts — it creates a small emotional distance between the character and the audience, so you will merely have fun watching Cruise do his thing, but never really feel for him. On the flip side, the film doesn’t waste time in waxing philosophy over what is wrong or right — it is ultimately a piece of high quality entertainment meant to thrill. If you just happen to enjoy what Seal’s character does in the film, maybe you are just as scummy as him.

Updated Date: Sep 29, 2017 12:27 PM