American Made manages to condense the derring-do of the enterprising Barry Seal, a pilot turned drug smuggler and deliveryman of choice by the Medellin Cartel and the CIA. The plot is breezy and engaging enough as airborne antics and escalating shenanigans ensue, thanks mostly to Cruise’s energy.
Director Doug Liman manages to combine geopolitics with crime logistics without being convoluted. Taking cinematographer César Charlone on board, the movie gets the needed agitation from the roving camerawork and the perspiring unglamorous part of the job from the fitting color palette.
Tom Cruise, like the best-used car salesman you’ve ever met, sells this fast and loose biographical crime film well enough that you won’t find yourself Googling for facts. The role is a perfect fit in the actor’s wheelhouse, evolving his iconic role as an ace flyboy into a likable rogue.
As much as the movie benefits from his presence, it’s also its biggest weakness. American Made is saddled by the fact that it’s really just another Tom Cruise showcase, preventing it from delivering the compelling rise and fall of its amoral deliveryman.
Barry Seal winks and smiles his way into lucrative deals and out of trouble. American Made doesn’t commit to the excess of its story as if it’s afraid to stain Cruise’s clean-cut persona. It’s a lighthearted entertaining movie for a Tom Cruise fan but a monotonous true-crime thriller with little comedy and no suspense for everybody else.
The rest of the cast has little to do as they get thrown into a revolving door of characters. Sarah Wright gets the thankless role of being Tom Cruise’s wife. Even Barry Seal himself is a caricature with vague motivations and coasts through a string of events, cut now and then by a videotaped confession instead of a voice-over. The movie wants to tell us that its all for his family with an enabling wife but this is underwritten.
Tom Cruise manages to sell this formulaic movie through his toothy smile and charm. If you’re a fan and want a distraction until the new Mission Impossible, you’ll find something to watch. However, if you’re looking for more than just another Cruise star vehicle, it’s best to watch Goodfellas again.
American Made is a monotonous, forgettable, and sterile true-crime comedy thriller with uninvolving characters.