Genre: Biographical Crime
Directors: Doug Liman
Running Time: 117 minutes
Main Cast: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson and Sarah Wright
Films that feature Tom Cruise as the lead star can be hit or miss, but American Made is a hit, that will have you watching it like the CIA watches drug traffickers.
American Made follows TWA Pilot Barry Seal, who is recruited by the CIA to fly reconnaissance missions over Central America in response to rise of communism in the region. Soon Seal is in deep with both the Medellin cartel and being part of the biggest covert CIA operations in its history. The story spans from the late 1970’s into the early 1980’s.
Tom Cruise plays a compelling Barry Seal, rich with the personalities of a CIA agent, drug trafficker and American Business man all in one. He never falls below par for the whole film, delivering both on screen and as a narrator. He looks confident in a plane, uncomfortable around the Medellin cartel kingpins such as Pablo Escobar. Seal is the soul of this story and the actor to play him had to have arrogance but be able to shift personalities from scene to scene, from drug run to gun run. This is why Cruise is able to succeed in this role and to make this one of his hit movies and not one of his flops. It also features subtle roles from Domhnall Gleeson as CIA agent Monty Schafer and Sarah Wright as Lucy Seal, Barry’s wife.
The films plot is loose, fast paced, and full of action but it lacks depth in its story content and this shows through with how easy it is to follow what should be deep content. For a story focused on the biggest CIA covert operation in American history, it feels really shallow. The focus is Seal, but the CIA just feel like side characters and not great side characters at that. More attention on the details behind why Seal decided to join them, how everything progressed when it got heated and the conclusion would have been better if the plot wasn’t so shallow with information. The story just feels like it is a film that just cruises along like a plane, not diving too much and not rising too high, just basically sitting in autopilot through the whole 117 minutes. The action keeps you sustained, the characters drag you along but it just lacks depth to penetrate a larger audience.
Doug Liman has done a good job with crafting the film, helping keep the focus on Cruise, the planes, the cargo and the overall operation linked to the story. He has balanced music well into the film, without overdoing it. He has used alternative camera placements to give the feeling of a bystander or a fly on the wall, which works for this sort of film, like we are the American government watching Seal’s every movement and it’s visually appealing. But all comes back to Cruise’s role as Seal. The focus of the camera never strays far from Seal, paying close attention to detail on Liman’s main subject without ever overdoing it. Liman finds that perfect balance while still making the action feel worthy of being part of a motion picture.
American Made leaves us feeling a little cheated of an in-depth biopic but still has enough action and Tom Cruise at his best to keep you entertained. The camera never shies away form Cruise and keeps the film and the audience focused. American Made has definitely hit the right spot and made sure the story had you rising and falling like turbulence hitting a plane.
The Front Row Opinion