There’s two things to expect in a Tom Cruise movie. Running, and airplanes. I mean what else is there?
The movie is based on a man named Barry Seal, who looks more like Patrick Wilson than he does Tom Cruise. He used to be an airline pilot and eventually became a big smuggler for Pablo Escobar’s organization and became an informant for the DEA. I gotta say, this sounds a hell of a lot heavier than the movie is making it out to be. The movie is making it look like a comedy. But hey, what can you do? And I don’t know what to make of the story itself. It looks like Seal was a smuggler before becoming an informant, but the trailer that I saw made it look like he was an informant before he became a smuggler. Eh, bad trailers to good movies exist, so we’ll see what happens. Other than that, it kind of looks like any other generic “American dream” movie. Dude down on his luck, falls into a situation that nets him money, shit hits the fan. Pretty formulaic if you ask me. But Cruise usually churns out a fun performance, so even if the story is copy and paste, you can’t copy/paste Cruise.
In support, we have Domhnall Gleeson (MOTHER! , BROOKLYN , and upcoming films GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN  and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI ), Sarah Wright (THE HOUSE BUNNY ), Jayma Mays (HEROES [2006 – 2010]), Jesse Plemons (BRIDGE OF SPIES  and BLACK MASS ), and Caleb Landry Jones (GET OUT , X-MEN: FIRST CLASS , and upcoming films THE FLORIDA PROJECT  and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Doug Liman, known for THE WALL (2017), EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014), THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002), and the upcoming LIVE DIE REPEAT AND REPEAT, no release date announced. Penning the screenplay is Gary Spinelli, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Composing the score is Christophe Beck, known for TROLLS (2016), and upcoming films HOLMES & WATSON (2018) and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is César Charlone, known for CITY OF GOD (2002).
Overall, not overly excited, but I think I’ll like it enough.
This is my honest opinion of: AMERICAN MADE
Set in the 1980s. The story follows Barry Seal (Tom Cruise). He’s an airline pilot who has a hidden secret of smuggling Cuban cigars into the states. Of course, his secret is no secret to Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) of the Central Intelligence Agency, who wants his flight skills to take pictures of South American insurgents with their special spy plane. He naturally accepts the job and eventually grabs the attention of some drug lords and does business with them on the side.
Well this was enjoyable. Probably a little moreso than I thought. But I wasn’t wrong about the story. It’s been done. But as far as “been done” stories go, it’s entertaining enough to be worthwhile.
About the best part of the movie, as he usually is with any movie that he’s in, is Cruise himself. When Barry is offered an opportunity to do exciting things with his flying skills, in the name of his country no less, he gets really excitable and Cruise’s energy is really infectious. And there’s a particular enjoyment watching him getting involved with the drug cartel and the CIA turns a blind eye to him, letting him work for both the good guys and the bad guys at the same time and no one cares and he’s just riding the money train. Cruise’s performance is what makes this movie.
Gleeson is delightfully spy-ish, pretending to not care about things until it directly affects him, his deadpan but smirky delivery of his lines, I will always enjoy him in a movie. The comedy really shines through as well. One of my favorite scenes is when Barry is caught and everyone, the DEA, state police, ATF, and FBI all swarm him at one time, it’s beyond hilarious. As you can probably tell, the story is upbeat when it needs to be, constantly putting a smile on your face. Hell, even the intricacies of his delivery methods are easy to follow, but I can see smarter people than me feeling like the movie is talking down to them because it does use cartoony visuals to explain everything. But speaking as a not smart person, I appreciated that because I wouldn’t have been able to follow it. I’m a visual learner, leave me alone.
Sadly, it’s not all good.
Like I said, probably for the millionth time, the story’s been done before and is pretty by the numbers. Dude in need of a financial break gets one, and then loses it all. The wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), has no real personality other than being the character that’s supposed to be worried and scold him for his decisions. In fact, you can pretty much say that about all the secondary characters outside of Gleeson. They either range from bland and uninteresting, or downright unlikable. Lucy’s brother JB (Caleb Landry Jones), is probably the worst offender. But then again, his final scene is… quite satisfying.
The movie’s nothing particularly special and nothing that hasn’t been done before. Your enjoyment of the film rests squarely on whether or not you like Cruise because he barely shares any screen time with anyone else. If you’re a fan, you’ll like it just fine. But the lack of originality and formulaic structure is pretty obvious, and the fact that with as wide of a cast list as there is, only two characters are at all interesting. It’s a fun movie regardless and I do kind of recommend it as a matinee screening or a discount day at the cinemas.
My honest rating for AMERICAN MADE: a strong 3/5