American Made begins in 1978, but is told in flashback from late 2015, with Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, who flies planes very adeptly for TWA, but is not adverse to using the trips to pick up and drop off items to make a bit of extra cash on the side without alerting his bosses to his ‘additional duties’.
His aviatory talents attract the eye of the CIA’s Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) and before long – and without his wife Lucy’s (Sarah Wright Olsen) knowledge – initially, he’s flying over South American countries, taking pictures of the enemy, at great danger to himself, of course – and this is where drones have their part to play, these days…
One thing leads to another, greed takes a hold, and Barry adds drug-running for Pablo Escobar, General Noriega and other associates to his repetoire, before stepping up a gear into guns. As it runs into the early ’80s, the Seal household also gains an Atari VCS. I tried to work out which game they were playing, but it looked like something from Activision and, like his career, it involved picking things up and dropping them off!
American Made is a solid thriller from start to finish, neatly ramping up the tension as it eventually hits home to Barry that he’s starting to bite off more than he can chew, especially when adding sidelines to his business. It also had me at ‘hello’ when the opening Universal Pictures logo gave way to an old ’70s/’80s one, which also brought those memories flooding back.
When I first saw the trailer for this, I thought the lead was played by Luke Wilson, given his jet black hair, but Cruise more than well-equips himself in the ‘likeable rogue’ role, as a man who wants to do good by his family, even if it’s via means which are far from legal. Also, Cruise has worked well with Doug Liman before on the equally brilliant Edge of Tomorrow. Liman also has good form with 1999’s Go, and the first Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Identity, which triumphs over any subsequent effort in the franchise.
The trailer is also a rare one which not only had a lot going on in it, but also delivered on its promise and had plenty more to say in a thriller which made you look forward to seeing how things would turn out, the more the film went on. Contrast that with Logan Lucky, which had a great trailer, but little more than padding in the film.
I won’t go into any more detail about what’s within the movie as it’s all there for you to discover, providing you’ve *not* looked up Barry Seal’s life story before watching this. It’s also kept on point by the entire cast, whether in a large role or small – leading to less of an ‘all about Cruise’ movie and more a fantastic ensemble piece – who all strive for one of the best two hour periods you’ll spend in the cinema this year!
Running time: 115 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Cinema: Odeon, Trafford Centre
Format: 1.85:1 (Arri Alexa)
Released: August 25th 2017
Director: Doug Liman
Producers: Doug Davison, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Brian Oliver, Kim Roth and Tyler Thompson
Screenplay: Gary Spinelli
Music: Christophe Beck
Barry Seal: Tom Cruise
Lucy Seal: Sarah Wright Olsen
Monty Schafer: Domhnall Gleeson
JB: Caleb Landry Jones
Sherriff Downing: Jesse Plemons
Judy Downing: Lola Kirke
Dana Sibota: Jayma Mays
George W Bush: Connor Trinneer
Jenny: April Billingsley
Agent Horace Wainwright: Kevin Johnson
Pete Duboix: William Mark McCullough
Louis Finkle: Jed Rees
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.