American Made (2017)
Directed by: Doug Liman | 115 minutes | action, biography | Actors: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, Lola Kirke, Jayma Mays, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez, E. Roger Mitchell, Jed Rees, Fredy Yate Escobar, Mauricio Mejía, Robert Farrior, Morgan Hinkleman Alberto Ospino
Pilot Barry Seal’s biography reads like a crime novel. In the 1970s, Barry smuggled drugs on international flights to earn some extra money. After that, he took things bigger and started smuggling for Pablo Escobar’s infamous Medellín Cartel. As if that wasn’t enough, Barry also worked as an informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and as a flying spy in South America on behalf of the CIA.
The character Barry Seal has already appeared in the superior Netflix series ‘Narcos’. The feature film ‘American Made’ is even completely devoted to this chunky pilot, with the eternally young Tom Cruise in the lead role. In this film adaptation, Seal’s already romantic life has been blown up again to XL size, so that it resembles the film adaptation of a picaresque novel. Bags full of money, American security forces on their heels, in-laws who are no good and drug lords who bet on whether or not a plane crashes.
Despite this magnification, we recognize much of what we saw before in ‘Narcos’: an amount of money for which no safe is big enough and is therefore buried in the ground, the shadowy mixture of politics and crime, car bombs, the striking skyline of Medellín and the hopeless attempts of the US government to bend matters.
We also see ‘Narcos’ in style. Here too an ironic voice-over, here too a succession of archive footage and acted drama, here too the alternation of longer shots and super-fast editing. The difference with ‘Narcos’ is mainly in the humor and in the wonderfully spectacular flight scenes. We don’t see the extreme violence of ‘Narcos’ here, nor would it fit the tone.
Despite the humor there is a sharp edge to ‘American Made’. Barry is no angel, of course, but he is mostly a victim of the self-proclaimed geniuses of the CIA and the insatiable drug lords. The way in which the American government services rage in distant countries is also something to think about.
That message does not predominate, ‘American Made’ is first and foremost a comic biography about the rise and fall of a slightly too confident pilot. In addition, he does not reach the sky-high level of ‘Narcos’, but there is still enough to enjoy for a nice film experience. Thanks to Cruise and a nice playful scenario.