"American Made" Review

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Tom Cruise has proven throughout his career that with the right role - he’s money. Cruise was completely miscast in this year’s “Mummy” reboot - and the film flopped. But he’s back as Hollywood’s “Top Gun” action star with “American Made”, re-teaming with “Edge of Tomorrow” director Doug Liman.

This is the story of airline pilot Barry Seal, who went from flying commercially for TWA to working as a spy for the CIA, to smuggling cocaine and weapons - during the Cold War era of the 70s and 80s.

Liman combines multiple cinematic techniques - most of which I’m usually not a big fan of: crazy camera angles, on-screen graphics, free-form editing and both text and voice-over narration - to get the documentary style look he was going after. It’s all a little overwhelming at first, and in lesser hands would have resulted in a disaster. But we soon settle into the film’s unpredictable yet satisfying rhythm.

Seal becomes so good at transporting guns, drugs, information and even soldiers, between the US and a variety of Central American countries, while avoiding authorities, that he starts making more cash than he knows what to do with.This provides some of the humor of “American Made”, including a couple of great montages. But with success comes a price - especially when dealing with not only the shady side of American law enforcement but drug lords and dictators, including the infamous Pablo Escobar. We know things aren’t going to end well for Seal, but this film is about the ride - and it’s an amazing one.

Credit the trifecta of Cruise, Liman and screenwriter Gary Spinelli for pulling-off one of the most fascinating rags to riches movies in recent memory. Seal’s saga is enthralling from beginning to end. “American Made” provides a whole lot of layers - each with a legitimate purpose to the overall outcome. And, thanks to Liman’s previously mentioned stylistic tricks, the complex script is easy to follow.

Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson in "American Made"
Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson in "American Made"

Cruise is in nearly every scene, many while in the cockpit. He’s listed as an Aerostar and Cessna Stunt Pilot in the final credits. But his acting also deserves high marks. With Seal, Cruise puts his spin on the “everyman” character - and we’re with him every step of the way.

This is a one-of-a-kind approach to one-of-a-kind source material. It’s slick, funny and daring. And like “Edge of Tomorrow”, there’s a surprising amount of depth that allows “American Made” to rise above “guilty pleasure” status. This is one of the most enjoyable films of 2017.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)