'American Made' Is A Fine Biopic With A Solid Tom Cruise Performance

By Anthony Taormina
Released: September 29, 2017
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A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

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Film Review
Given how recognizable he has become as an action star, it isn't often that Tom Cruise stars in biopics. For that reason, American Made is a rare breed, but for many others, it is by the numbers. A story of an American pilot that was recruited by the CIA, began working for the Colombian drug cartel, and eventually amassed more wealth than he knew what to do with, American Made has a lot of the trappings of a good guy gone bad story. As Barry Seal, Tom Cruise carries plenty of charisma and charm, and while his story is fascinating on some levels, it doesn't pack enough to justify a 2-hour film. Moreover, there are a lot of liberties taken with Seal's story, which makes the film even more disposable.

American Made, courtesy Universal Pictures 2017, All Rights Reserved.

But on the surface, American Made is enjoyable enough due to Cruise's weight as an actor. He carries every scene and imbues every minute with an energy that is hard to deny. Even as Seal's story follows predictable paths, American Made is at the very least watchable because of Cruise's performance. Now, compared to some of his other great performances and films, American Made is likely on the low end of the scale, but it is by no means his work that brings the film down.

Beyond the standard story, American Made falters because it never takes time to build any of the characters besides Seal. There are so many one-note characters in the film, from Barry's wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) to his CIA handler Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson); it feels like a lot of window dressing without any substance. And the characters are so fleeting that you often forget that they exist for long stretches at a time. Let us also not forget that the three main figures of the Medellin Cartel are in the film, Pablo Escobar (Maricio Mejia), Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) and Carlos Ledher (Fredy Yate Escobar). For the most part, the Cartel is simply a plot point and nothing more. The characters don't feel particularly interesting and there only real value in the film is to highlight how dangerous Seal's exploits are.

American Made, courtesy Universal Pictures 2017, All Rights Reserved.

American Made is a forgettable biopic with a solid performance form its A-list lead. It has some elements that are entertaining, but most of that excitement comes from Cruise's skills an actor and not the script, direction, or characters. The film typifies the September release - a singular reason to watch the film but very little to recommend it post-viewing.
With films like The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow to his name, Doug Liman has shown he is a more-than-competent director. Yet somehow, American Made feels amateurish in its construction and filmmaking. Awkward shot choice, weird angles, and confusing composition make for a film that is really hard to watch at times. One has to figure that Liman was trying to echo Seal's wild nature through a lot of free-moving and unstructured camera work, but his efforts are less than successful. Awkward is the best way to describe the filmmaking, and it really is distracting. To be fair, things tend to settle down later on, but that early experimentation is very jarring and offputting.

American Made, courtesy Universal Pictures 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Action, Biography, Comedy
Release Date
September 29, 2017
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