Since the late 2000s, Hollywood has been obsessed with movies that deal with the drug cartel. I personally think the genre is beginning to feel over saturated, with a new movie on the subject matter coming out almost every year and of course Netflix’s hit show, Narcos. When I first saw the trailer for American Made, I thought “Oh great, here’s another movie about Pablo Escobar and the Mexican Drug Cartel.” Well after seeing it for myself, I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised. Tom Cruise is in top form with his role as Barry Seal in this entertaining true story.
A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.
American Made starts off pretty slow and the editing is sloppy in the first 20-25 minutes. Characters were just kind of being thrown at the audience and things just happened. Once the narrative starts unfolding and you see how Barry Seal gets involved with the CIA and then drug running on the side, American Made kicks into high gear. Tom Cruise delivers his best performance since 2012’s Jack Reacher. He does a great job crafting his character, making him likable and authentic. Plus his southern accent was pretty funny at times. He truly makes this a “Tom Cruise” movie, and I think it functions better with his footprint on it. The rest of the cast is pretty solid as well, but this is definitely Cruise’s show.
The best thing about American Made is the fact that it is a movie that deals with some serious situations, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. As a matter of fact, it is pretty funny a lot of the time. This is such a breath of fresh air in this genre. Almost all of the drug cartel films are extremely serious and dramatic. American Made is the complete opposite of that, but it is serious when it needs to be. The balance of that coupled with the fantastic pacing in the 2nd and 3rd acts makes for a good time at the movies.
What American Made really executed well was not overusing Pablo Escobar. He serves as a side character and honestly doesn’t even get much screen time, and this is GREAT. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t interested in seeing another movie about him, so the fact the movie focuses on Barry Seal and his story helps transcend American Made beyond the genre. This is Barry Seal’s story and it is told very well. Director Doug Liman is a strong director and his vision is clear and concise, plus he works very well with Tom Cruise (they collaborated on 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow). I hope they continue to team up in the future.
The story is really interesting as well. It is one of those stories that I didn’t know about at all, but I’m glad I saw it. I do feel like they tried to jam a lot into just 2 hours, though. This could have easily been 2 and a half hours long, but I think it got chopped up a lot in the editing room. Overall, It is really eye-opening to see just how many people Pablo Escobar used during his years of drug running.
My two biggest complaints with American Made are the cinematography and the editing. The camera work felt odd and very Paul Greengrass-ish at times, but just not executed as well. The editing was sloppy at times as well, which was frustrating because I feel like in the last cuts before the final one, the editing was much better. American Made is one of those movies that you can just tell got a little too chopped up.
American Made is definitely worth seeing in theaters. Tom Cruise commands every scene he is in and it’s a story that people just need to know. American Made is proof that not all drug-running movies have to be super serious. Go check it out!