Movie Review: In American Made, Tom Cruise Is Back in the Cockpit—But For Coke, Not Country | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, September 29, 2017

Movie Review: In American Made, Tom Cruise Is Back in the Cockpit—But For Coke, Not Country

Posted by Google on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 8:09 AM

click to enlarge Tom Cruise in American Made - PHOTO BY DAVID JAMES/COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • photo by David James/courtesy of Universal Pictures
  • Tom Cruise in American Made
American Made
★★★½
Now playing

In Top Gun, a young Tom Cruise played an eighties-era pilot in the service of the U.S.A. More than thirty years later, Cruise—still flashing a cocksure facade of pearly whites and aviator shades—goes back to the eighties to portray the real-life pilot Barry Seal, a cynical analog to that previous role. In American Made, the enemy is no longer faceless bad guys in black fighter planes. The hindsight of history reveals a tangled web of black ops and duplicity, with splintered American law enforcement agencies as much at odds with one another as with their chosen targets.

In 1978, a shadowy CIA minder named Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) recruits Seal from his mundane job as a TWA pilot to fly spy reconnaissance missions over Central and South America. Seal also serves as a courier between the CIA and general Manuel Noriega in Panama, and it’s there that Seal is conscripted into service by the Medellin cartel of Colombia to smuggle kilos of cocaine into the United States.

The CIA knows about Seal’s side business but doesn’t care because he takes pretty spy photos. When Seal lands on the DEA’s radar, it just allows Schafer to tighten his grip. To escape mounting legal problems, Seal finds himself in the middle of a byzantine arrangement that involves smuggling guns, drugs, and personnel between Colombia, Nicaragua, and Seal’s new CIA-funded airstrip in Mena, Arkansas. The firearms are for the contras in their fight against Sandinista communists, but the contras would rather have drugs to sell and the cartel would rather have the armaments. Meanwhile, half the contras Seal ferries to his Arkansas spread for CIA training end up slipping away.

Beyond illuminating the geopolitical dysfunction of its era, American Made paints a portrait of a man who both has it all and has nothing. Seal rakes in so much money he literally can’t store it all, even after setting up shell companies and new banks all over Mena. He buries cash in the backyard and mixes it with the hay in his horse stable. Seal is a valuable asset until he ceases to be, and his legally precarious positions make his life and possessions ephemeral, subject to the whims of any of his hazardous connections.

Director Doug Liman, who directed Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, plays a bit fast and loose with the facts of Seal’s life for the sake of narrative efficiency and dynamism. The film’s breezy pace also comes at the cost of fleshing out most of the supporting characters, including the quartet of “Snowbird” pilots Seal hires for his illicit operation; a local sheriff in Mena (Jesse Plemons); and Seal’s wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), whose trepidation over her husband’s erratic and egregious behavior dissipates once she starts seeing bags of Benjamins.

Indeed, Seal suffers from a similar lack of background development, instead subsisting on Cruise’s formidable charm and abilities. He fashions Seal as fidgety, bewildered, mischievous, and/or cocky, acting traits well within Cruise’s wheelhouse since, well, Top Gun. Maverick Mitchell is who we want our frontline defenders to look like; Barry Seal is who they often are.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

This review is idiotic.

by Fillum Critick on Movie Review: Deadpool Is Spider-Man But With Nudity, Gore and No Fourth Wall (Arts)

I think Vitiello's intent was good. But this "article" is lousy. I don't agree with Wimberly's argument, but the way …

by em gso on We Think CAM Raleigh Hasn't Answered the Community's Questions About Its Controversial Margaret Bowland Show. Curator Dexter Wimberly Says We Just Don't Like the Answers. (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

This review is idiotic.

by Fillum Critick on Movie Review: Deadpool Is Spider-Man But With Nudity, Gore and No Fourth Wall (Arts)

I think Vitiello's intent was good. But this "article" is lousy. I don't agree with Wimberly's argument, but the way …

by em gso on We Think CAM Raleigh Hasn't Answered the Community's Questions About Its Controversial Margaret Bowland Show. Curator Dexter Wimberly Says We Just Don't Like the Answers. (Arts)

Lousy, half thought, 'conversations' like this are strychnine to meaningful art.

The artist should point at the wall …

by Art Critic on We Think CAM Raleigh Hasn't Answered the Community's Questions About Its Controversial Margaret Bowland Show. Curator Dexter Wimberly Says We Just Don't Like the Answers. (Arts)

This is the first truly good art to grace the walls of CAM in a very long time. I hope …

by Art Critic on CAM Raleigh Director Gab Smith Speaks About the Margaret Bowland Controversy and the Museum's Desire to Listen and Learn (Arts)

an industry funded propaganda piece that equates GMO concerns about transparency, and the slippery slope of patenting seeds and increased …

by Roy Kortick on Documentary Food Evolution Is an Unusually Measured Look at the Polarizing GMO Debate (Arts)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation