reflection

The collective performance of the ensemble enhances the overall acting score for the film. What stood out was the writing, directing and cinematography. While the focus was on the performances, each of these elements turned a good movie into a great cinematic experience.
Acting
Writing
Directing
Cinematography
Enjoyment Factor

‘American Made’ Review: Cruise’s Performance Makes Up For ‘The Mummy’

American Made’s tightly constructed narrative and spirited performances make this film a must see.

Summary

American Made is the alleged real story of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) who went from being your average TWA pilot to an international drug and arms smuggler. While Doug Liman’s (who last directed Cruise in The Edge Of Tommorrow) latest project admittedly contains a large amount of fiction, some of the narrative is factual. Most believe Seal was on the CIA’s payroll. His business started to boom when Seal agreed to smuggle in drugs for the Medellin cartel. Eventually, his business dealings lead to an arrest and a forced deal with the CIA and DEA to help take down the largest cartel in the world. However, a photo released to the news media implicates Seal and his world quickly came crashing in.

American Made

What Worked

The picaresque style of the narrative allows the film to avoid feeling tedious and played well to Cruise’s talents. Rather than dominate and overact as he did in The Mummy, each moment (whether it was in Central America, Louisana, or Arkansas) had an end goal. The scene in the TWA flight club with his CIA operative (played by Domhall Gleeson) established how Seal started working for the government. Each of the scenes in Central America was meant to prove that Cruise’s character was a wheeler and dealer. With each scene change, we switched to another critical moment in his life. Cruise even slowed down his delivery a tick and added a southern accent to help sell the character. Liman had a clear understanding of Spinelli’s vision for the story and Cruise was able to deliver.

Cinematographer Cesar Charlone made use of bright colors that helped the historical montages pop on screen. While the montages were at a ramped up pace, the scenes were visually appealing. These moments served as connections between the narrative and the period. How are we going to believe that a former TWA pilot was instrumental in the fight against the cartels in the 80’s if there are no scenes involving Ronald and Nancy Reagan? 

Charlone seemed to make use of a longer camera lens which enhanced how vast those jungles appeared. He also threw in his fair share of close-up shots (a Liman staple). Most of these shots came when Cruise lands the plane deep in the Central American jungle.

Cruise seemed to have a deep understanding of his character and realized that while the story is about Barry Seal, the film was more of an ensemble piece. Every character is an important chess piece in the game Seal’s playing against the CIA, Drug Cartels, and the DEA. While Cruise might have top billing in the film, Gleeson’s character is equally as important. Without him selling the idea of doing these illegal acts because “If you are doing it for the right guys, it’s legal,” Cruise’s character would have appeared to lose his mind. Deep down, Seal believes that he’s doing this for his country. It’s when he feels the pressure of a new family that his emphasis is about making the most money.

Overall

While the storyline isn’t 100% factual, there’s no denying how entertaining American Made is. This film isn’t an award winner but is a crowd pleaser. Everyone should give American Made  a chance and don’t be surprised if this movie dominates the box-office opening week.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.
The collective performance of the ensemble enhances the overall acting score for the film. What stood out was the writing, directing and cinematography. While the focus was on the performances, each of these elements turned a good movie into a great cinematic experience. 'American Made' Review: Cruise's Performance Makes Up For 'The Mummy'