It may be exasperating to repeatedly see 55 year old Tom Cruise trying to pass himself off as a thirty something man, but there’s something that’s undeniable about “American Made”: Cruise is the very definition of a movie star. His charisma elevates the material and is what makes this one worth watching.
The film is an exaggerated retelling of the incredible true story of Barry Seal (Cruise), a TWA pilot recruited by the CIA in the late 1970s to provide reconnaissance in Central America. Things go from crazy to even crazier as Seal finds himself in charge of one of the largest covert government operations in history, eventually becoming a drug runner for Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel, a DEA informant, and an illegal arms dealer for the United States. Over the years, he and his handler Schafer (a fantastic Domhnall Gleeson), become deeply imbedded in the Iran-Contra scandal.
There’s an intoxicating energy to this unbelievable story, as director Doug Liman plays fast and loose with the actual facts and events. There’s nothing groundbreaking in terms of story or craft, but Liman takes a complex story and makes it easy to understand as well as totally entertaining. This is a rapid paced, brisk retelling that’s not quite as skillfully directed as other American pop history films like “Argo,” but it’s still an engaging thrill ride.
Cruise has the right personality match for a cocky, carefree character, and his cavalier performance makes everything about it fun. You won’t get a complex history lesson about one of the wildest, most certifiably insane true stores in America’s history, but the facts are glossed over in a breezy, charming fashion that gives this one a fun edge thanks to Cruise’s movie star charisma.