Movie Review: American Made

Uma Madhu, III Year B.A. English
Nilanka Anna Christy, III Year B.A. English
Image source: paulharrisonline.blogspot.com

Tom Cruise’s latest foray into the big screen is funny, incredulous, and way more delightful than a movie about a drug cartel is supposed to be. ‘American Made’, an escapist romp of a movie, is a largely biographical account of the TWA Pilot Barry Seal (Cruise) hired by the CIA. He later becomes involved in the Medellin drug Cartel of the 1980s. Director Doug Liman does not disappoint, revealing once again his flair for holding the tension taut and tight from beginning to end, while also making for an entertaining, almost fiercely watchable flick.

‘American Made’ breaks the stereotype of a thriller/ crime drama. Instead of being dark and heavy and filled with violence, this movie is simply hilarious. Even the commentary it makes on class, society and American politics are underlined with a humorous frivolity, tied together with a thread of light happiness that sets it apart from other bio-pics and, indeed, other thrillers.

A large part of the sheer delight of the movie, of course, comes from Barry Seal himself. In no time at all we find ourselves rooting for this likable maverick, bright and fizzling with good-natured opportunism and recklessness, blessed with oozing charm and an almost uncanny streak of luck. Of course, it is Thomas Cruise Mapother the IVth himself who steals the show. He is armed with disarming charisma and Cruise carries Barry Seal with seasoned élan, keeping the audience hooked and invested even as he blurs more than a few moral boundaries.

His unbelievable good fortune, his towering mansion, his gorgeous wife, and the money spilling from every corner of his house (literally) seems to only make the movie more amusing. Perhaps a reason for this may be that he never plays the self-loathing, new-money-spiraling-downward trope. From beginning to end, Barry is Barry, not quite hung up on right and wrong, but cheerful, easy-going, more than a little daredevil, and devoted to his family. The life of Barry Seal can be compared to that of a very satisfying game of Monopoly; one where he has access to several ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards.

Even with Cruise taking the spotlight so effortlessly, the other members of the cast do not fail to make an impact. Sarah Wright beautifully embodied the loving, exasperated Lucy Seal and Domhnall Gleeson played the role of Schafer, a vaguely threatening CIA Agent with a sort of confusing charm. However, the happy surprise comes in the form of Alejandro Edda and Mauicio Mejia as Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar, the leaders of the Medellin cartel. Despite being the antagonists of the movie, the actors stayed true to the spirit of the flick, opting for a moustachioed, cartoonish, quite buffoonish villainy, rather than evoking any real sense of fear.

Cesar Chalone’s cinematography adapts beautifully to the shifting locations. It is rich on the bright 80’s aesthetics in the US based scenes. It is roving and lively across the vast plains and rivers in the scenes based in South America, adding to the bright, bubbling joy that the movie is sure to provide. It’s the type of movie that seems to tell you to just live even if the world is falling apart around you. Don’t go there expecting any insightful commentary or even a serious thriller. Grab your popcorn, kick back and enjoy this thrilling yet spectacularly comical adventure where the American dream comes true.

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