American Made

By: 
John Thomas

Probably the reason American Made didn’t meet studio opening week expectations ($$) is because it’s too cerebral for the targeted audience. Instead of seeing Tom Cruise clinging to the outside of a plane during takeoff, he is inside at the controls. He’s not running at full speed from evil forces, he is dealing with them face to face. In place of combatting imaginary opponents with supernatural powers he is confronting real people with supernatural powers. This film is not a fantasy story that might happen in the future, but one based on real events that took place in the 80s.

Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is a happily married husband and father, but an unhappy pilot for TWA. He flies from one boring destination to another. His only excitement (and source of additional income) is the occasional contraband he smuggles into this country. These innocent infractions are brought to his attention by CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who has come from D.C. to offer him a new lease on life. The new life comes with the fastest, most nimble personal airplane manufactured at the time.

It is an offer Barry can’t refuse. That’s when the trouble begins. He is asked to fly over and around Central America taking surveillance photographs of gorilla installations hidden in the jungles. What fun for him and informative for our government. But that’s not enough – soon he is asked to deliver “things” and return with other “things,” some of them being bundles of cash. The troubles escalate. A new problem arises for Barry – what to do with the cash with which he is being paid. He deposits some in banks, tucks some in closets around the house and, because of the sheer amount of it, he is forced to bury it in the back yard.

But things escalate even more as additional demands are made. The government is thrilled with the arrangement and Barry is happy to fly around in his fast plane. Gunfire coming his way from the guerrilla forces on the ground only adds an exciting touch to his thrilling new life. It gets better. He meets with leaders of drug cartels, heads of gorilla armies and Central American dictators. His wife Lucy (Sarah Wright), enjoys the benefits of this new life, but treats everything with a cautious note – how long can this last she wonders?

One doesn’t need fiction/fantasy stories when there is a nonfiction story like this to be told. Doug Liman tells this story with creativity, imagination and just enough thrills and humor to engage most audiences. Tom Cruise demonstrates his ability to move from super-human characters to a super human person – a loving husband, caring parent and a citizen who only wants to do the right thing for his country. Barry asks Monty about their CIA activities, “Is it legal?” he says. With a smile and a shrug Monty replies, “If you’re doing it for the good guys...”

Directed by Doug Liman with a run time of 115 minutes, American Made is a “see” movie.

johan@beachcomber.news

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