“American Made” follows the life of Barry Seal, an airline pilot of the 1970s, turned into a government spy/drug smuggler of the 1980s. Yes, we have ourselves yet another biopic. This time, it is directed by Doug Liman (“Edge of Tomorrow,” also known as “Live, Die, Repeat”), a man who is very familiar to working with Tom Cruise.
Tom Cruise IS Barry Seal and HE is as American made as the character he portrays within this film. Of course, there is more to the movie than just the man it is about. The War on Drugs. Does it sound familiar? Well, believe it or not, there was a time in this country when there were no laws against the use of them OR the possession of them. Yes, specific drugs are not illegal, but some time ago, the government decided it was their job to tell us what we could or could not partake for ourselves and for everyone else. That will be all for my little socio-political rant. Just keep it in mind if and when you view this film.
The first thing that caught my attention in “American Made” was the style of effects. During the opening seconds of the title credits, there is a sudden shift, literally, in the look of the movie. You know, right away, that you are in for something special. As I mentioned before, biopics are NOT new, and neither are the issues that are being discussed within them, but while objective story-telling is the typical format, “American Made” DOES include some moments of subjective thinking, which I believe are crucial to the story, overall. The greatest example of this comes in the last words spoken by Barry Seal, in the film. It is somewhat of a recall to a phrase he utters much earlier in the story. THAT is how you tie a message together. Screenwriter, Gary Spinelli, deserves great praise for the idea and Doug Liman deserves high praise for its proper execution.
While I am handing out compliments to the filmmakers, I should NOT omit the work of Cesar Charlone (Director of “3%”) in the aspect of Cinematography. If the style is so important to this movie, then his camera work was a major part of it. I also expect that the editing team will be noteworthy as the award season gets underway for 2017, but the stellar work does NOT stop there and as outstanding as Tom Cruise was as the lead character, the chemistry he had with his co-stars certainly gave the film an even greater boost.
Sarah Wright (“Walk of Shame”), as Lucy Seal, the patient wife of Barry Seal, brought a nice blend of comedy and reality to the narrative. Domhnall Gleeson (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), as Monty Schafer, relays the subtle inner-workings of a government program such as the CIA or the DEA. These figures make up something of a triangle with Tome Cruise, but there is at least one other performance that deserves mention: Caleb Landry Jones (“Get Out”) as JB, the crazy mooching brother of Lucy Seal. What makes this character so intriguing is the line you can draw between he and Barry Seal. As strikingly different as the two of them appear to be, there are odd similarities between them, as well. JB’s entry and exit are symbolic of what might well have been hidden away inside of the character, which is Barry Seal. Just think of him as Barry Seal with no filter or façade. If we can assume that this portrayal was, indeed, accurate to the real-life story, then consider it a prime example of life imitating art, or is it the other way around?
“American Made,” in my estimation, rates as one of the best films of 2017, but there is a larger scope of comparison to be made and THAT is how it relates to Tom Cruise’s movie career, particularly on this side of the millennium. Very few film stars have had the kind of dazzling spectrum Mister Cruise has had. Each decade seems to have its own look and feel and creates an intriguing timeline, overall, but I digress.
The first movie I think of when I think about Tom Cruise in the 21st century is “MI2.” Yes, his first portrayal of Ethan Hunt was back in 1996, but with a sixth installment due next year, it is easy to say that THIS is more of a modern iconic figure, as a film series, than a classic one. I would prefer to combine the Jack Reacher movies, since there have been at least two of them, with the MI films, and make the focus of this comparison more about the Sci-Fi and Drama roles for Tom Cruise. My top five, in chronological order, are as follows:
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Minority Report (2002)
War of the Worlds (2005)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
American Made (2017)
I realize that there is a big gap of time between “War of the Worlds” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” but it is what it is. “Vanilla Sky” was more of a great performance by Cruise than it was a great film. It simply had too many twists to make any sense by the end of the movie. “War of the Worlds” is probably the least memorable performance AND film on this list, for me. Therefore, it gets the lowest ranking, here. “Minority Report,” I remember much more as an outstanding film than being an outstanding performance for Tom. It gets a better ranking than “Vanilla Sky,” but no higher, here. That leaves “Edge of Tomorrow” and “American Made.”
“Edge of Tomorrow” is probably one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies of all time. It contained all the wonderful elements I like about the genre, but then added some creative techniques, as well. While “American Made” is probably Tom Cruise’s best individual performance on this list, I still favor “Edge of Tomorrow” as an overall film. With all that being said, “American Made” is still a great film and should garner plenty of praise and accolades, despite the rather tumultuous relationship Cruise might now have with fellow members of the profession AND audiences members of all types. I would hope that we can all still appreciate Tom for what he IS and NOT just focus on what he is NOT, if that makes any sense.