31 Days, 31 Movies 12/8: American Made
I will be surprised come the end of the month if this isn’t the shortest write up of a film of the 31. American Made is a fun middle of the road film that all the cinema nihilists will have you convinced doesn’t get made anymore. But there just isn’t much underneath the punchy narrative and charismatic lead performance. Doug Liman is a veteran action movie director most famous for Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity but a personal favorite of mine in Liman’s oeuvre is Edge of Tomorrow the 2014 science fiction movie where he and Tom Cruise teamed up for the first time. Liman managed to do in Edge of Tomorrow what not many directors have proved capable of and coaxed out a fun Tom Cruise performance. The two certainly make a good partnership and if the rumors for an Edge of Tomorrow sequel are to be believed than it will continue to be a fruitful partnership going forward.
American Made is the story of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who is recruited by the CIA to take fly over pictures of Central American revolutionaries. As one would expect of course this devolves pretty quickly into Seals running guns and cocaine for the Medellin Cartel and Contra militants, as stuff like this normally does. Over the course of the movie you watch hot headed pilot Barry Seals turn to having to figure out different cervices in his Mena, Arkansas mansion. It is surprising that we haven’t seen more gunrunner or drug trafficker movies aside from Lord of War and War Dogs there isn’t much that the genre has to offer as far as I know which I’ve always found odd especially with the depths with which the street level crime genre has been explored.
Liman’s manic filmmaking style in American Made is surprisingly effective, taking a much lighter approach to the topic of selling drugs and guns than is customary in movies of this type. While Lord of War felt bleak and cold and despairing American Made strikes and oddly lively tone for a movie that is mostly about a man dropping thousands of pounds of cocaine into the Louisiana marshes. The movie lives and dies on the success of Tom Cruise’s performance however. Charming and likeable, Cruise turns Seals into the likable leading character that this movie needs because the plot does drag at points in the film especially when it comes to Seals home life which is of little to no interest and even though it gets minimal screen time the time that it does get feels like a wasted opportunity.
Tom Cruise carries this film from a pretty forgettable crime movie to a fun piece of action and comedy. While there is little more under the hood of this bright and colorful look at the dark world of arms dealing and political revolution it is a good enough vehicle for its movie star to shine.