Review: American Made – Maverick pilot madness

American MadeAs if the world didn’t already have enough reasons to look at the United States as the crazy, eccentric uncle of modern civilization, now there’s American Made, the new Tom Cruise flick that shines a light on our history of wackadoodle manipulations of global politics.

Based on the true story of Barry Seal (Cruise), a mavericky TWA airline pilot who quits his boring day job for a life of thrills and covert missions with the CIA – the kind of work where, when you’re caught, they (wink, wink) never knew anything about you.

Known as “the guy who delivers,” Seal supplements his underground government income by smuggling drugs for the Medelin Cartel and its kingpins, including Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia), while the spooks he works for mostly turn a blind eye.

As played by Cruise, Seal is a lovable, well-meaning anti-hero who just wants to take care of his family; and for his part the actor delivers his best performance in years, hearkening back to his dramatic heyday in films like The Color of Money and Born on the Fourth of July.

Directed by Doug Liman (who also helmed Edge of Tomorrow, starring Cruise) and written by Gary Spinelli, this serious subject is presented in a humorous manner that will allow you to learn something in a very entertaining way (skewed as this history lesson may or may not be.)

American MadeIn many respects the tone of this film about America running amok reminded me a lot of 2015’s The Big Short, albeit with a complexly different subject matter.

American Made also has terrific acting performances by Sarah Wright as Seal’s long-suffering wife, Lucy; Caleb Landry Jones as Lucy’s redneck brother, JB; and Domhnall Gleeson as Seal’s CIA contact, Monty. Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons is underutilized as the Sherriff of Mena, Arkansas, Seal’s home base of operations.

Like many of the current crop of films that take us back to the not-so-good ol’ days of the seventies and eighties (see American Hustle, Argo, The Nice Guys and Kong: Skull Island), American Made has an awesome soundtrack, with cool old tunes including: One Way Out (The Allman Brothers Band); Blue Bayou (Linda Ronstadt) and even the disco classic A Fifth Of Beethoven (Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band.)

American Made is a lot of fun to watch, but disturbing to think about, especially in our current political climate. It makes one wonder what kind of political docudrama we’ll be watching 30 years from now (assuming we survive that long.) And will Tom Cruise be playing Donald Trump? Grade: 8.5/10

Photos Copyright © 2017 Universal Pictures

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.