As be expected from Tom Cruise, he does a lot of running in this film, only its not a cardio workout, this time he’s running drugs, guns, guerrilla fighters for the CIA, Cartels, Contra’s and the DEA all over the course of a few years. This is the Barry Seal story.
T.W.A. pilot Barry Seal (Cruise) is recruited by ‘’Schafer’’ (Domhnall Gleeson) for the CIA in 1978, to fly over Latin American countries with Communist affiliations gather intelligence on ‘enemies of democracy’’. Being a hotshot pilot, Barry agrees and pretty soon feels the need, the need for speed (you can be my wingman anytime). However he quickly becomes a victim of his own success, after arriving in Colombia in ’78 he is quickly brought before the future Medellin cartel, including a young Pablo Escobar for any fans of Narcos.
Instead of killing Barry, they pay him to smuggle cocaine into the US and with his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) and his children to provide for, Barry does so. After being arrested by Colombian police, Schafer bails Barry out and makes him a new offer, smuggling guns into Nicaragua to arm the Contra’s ‘’freedom fighters’’ against the Communist regime. Schafer also re-locates Barry’s family to Mena, Arkansas, bequeathing him an air field and 300 aches of land. Barry finally tells Lucy the truth and soon they get swept up in the excess and glamour of the 80’s (*snort* HOO! BEST DECADE EVER! ) (y’know, apart from mass incarceration, AIDS and Able Archer…and bad hair)
By ’82 the Seal household is literally overflowing with cash and Barry has expanded his operations to include more pilots, affectionately called ‘’the Snowbirds’’ all the while out running the DEA, ATF and the FBI all at once while Escobar goes crazy and declares war on the Colombian government, and Lucy’s deadbeat brother steals from Barry, gets caught and after he’s taken care of (we never learn who by) Schafer decides to burst Barry’s bubble and cut off all ties to him and then Barry is arrested but freed by the DEA and now he’s working for the White House to get pictures incriminating the Medellin and giving the US the justification it needs to get behind the Contra’s and oust Communist’s from Central America.
Over the course off the film Barry narrates over old home video recordings he made in ’86 to document his side of things and shed light on the events as they transpired. In fact the director Doug Liman frames every shot like it was taken on an old VHS camera, which is a nice technique and paint the era it was set in. The plot never wastes a minute and every scene serves a purpose, and Barry goes through more alliances and loyalties than 4 seasons of Game of Thrones and after the Mummy flopped Tom Cruise is back on top form, American Made is part documentary, part history lesson, part political drama and an autobiography, all based on a true story about lies.
By Daniel Murphy