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Film Review: American Made

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The unbelievable true story of American Made takes you on a wild ride through the 1980s era of Cold War politics, drugs, conspiracy and Barry Seal’s crazy adventures.

The true story of American Made is one of many hidden gems barely known and virtually forgotten in history. While pilot Barry Seal’s (Tom Cruise) aerial excursions were not exactly vital in the foreign and domestic policy of the United States in the cold war era, Seal was extraordinarily closely involved in the top-secret affairs of the US.  

Starting off as a patriotic family man and a TWA pilot, Barry Seal’s zest for life and hunger for adventure leads him down an unbelievable path of CIA missions and simultaneous drug runs.

As he finds himself deeper and deeper in the affairs of the CIA, Seal is soon commissioned to transport AK-47s to South America, and eventually finds himself bringing the right-wing Nicaraguan Contra rebels back to the US for training, making Seal a key player and a massive beneficiary in the Iran-Contra affair.

In making sure that his gruelling journeys in his tiny plane did not go to waste, Seal brings back massive loads of cocaine for the infamous Pablo Escobar.

And believe it or not, this is not just the synopsis of the film; this all really happened. Barry Seal played both sides, with each one totally oblivious to the other.

This unbelievable true story quality to American Made makes the film totally enthralling, and results in most of it being watched in total awe more than anything else.   

But the film could not have succeeded on wow-factor alone. Director Doug Liman, who worked on titles such as Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity brings a perfectly suited fast-paced style to the film which could not have worked without it.

Bringing together a dynamic crew of passionate storytellers including writer Gary Spinelli, and the cinematographer who helped bring the gritty realism of the Rio slums to life in City of God, César Charlone, Liman really had the best crew for the job.

The quirky and punchy nature of the story-telling not only makes the politics easy to understand, but it is exactly suited to the nature of Barry Seal and the adventures he finds himself in.

And this style is brought to life more vividly by the always impressive Tom Cruise who also worked passionately with Liman on this film to make sure different elements of the story were just right. While rarely displaying a poor performance, Cruise brings passion and life to the story of a man who was probably the most likeable criminal the US has ever seen.

Supported by the fantastic Domhnall Gleeson who plays CIA operative Monty Shafer, and Sarah Wright Olsen who is perfectly suited to play Barry’s loving wife Lucy, everything just seems to fall into place with the cast.                     

With a Wolf of Wall Street feel to the whole film which sees an ordinary man go from rags to riches in an ambiguously illegal way,  American Made falls just slightly short of showcasing something new the way that Martin Scorsese’s hard-hitting Jordan Belfort stock-broker character and story did.

Liman undoubtedly brings a rare hypnotic quality to the film which is hard to find, but it doesn’t quite bring the originality which makes a film top-quality, and at times feels like it is trying too hard to do what films like The Wolf of Wall Street did.

However, that’s a tough ask of any film, and Liman and Cruise still bring a high-quality, enthralling, engaging and totally action packed watched for any audience. And one thing’s for certain, you won’t be forgetting about Barry Seal anytime soon after seeing American Made.

American Made is out now, distributed through Universal Pictures. 

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