By Andrew Cripe, Movie Critic
“American Made” strives to be a new American classic, and it almost succeeds. It is a beautifully made, exciting and funny film that features a terrific lead performance from Tom Cruise. While it does have some weaknesses, viewers should not be discouraged from seeing director Doug Liman’s latest, because when it takes flight, it really soars.
The movie tells an incredible true story about a pilot named Barry Seal (Cruise), a man who, from 1978 to 1985, had an intense schedule. Seal was embroiled in the affairs and dealings of the CIA, the South American government and Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, all while being a loving husband and father. During this period, Seal became a very rich man, which created its own set of problems for him and his family.
The film is dominated by Cruise’s performance. Cruise, who previously collaborated with Doug Liman on 2014’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” channels a humor and charisma into the reckless Seal, making him an emotionally complex and deeply interesting character.
The film oozes confidence, with the script by Gary Spinelli effortlessly weaving together history, humor and action. The dialogue pops and surprises. The cinematography by César Charlone is mostly handheld, giving the film a realistic, dizzying feeling. The editing by Andrew Mondshein smoothly guides the audience through seven years of Seal’s life while also keeping the viewer aware of the turmoils of the era.
A big issue with the film is the appearance of Caleb Landry Jones as Seal’s brother-in-law, JB. The director spends too much time focused on him. If you saw Jones earlier this year in “Get Out,” you know that he is a fine actor, but here that skill isn’t on display.
There is nothing interesting about a character whose sole purpose is to be overbearing. His character’s subplot puts a disappointing road bump in an otherwise exhilarating ride.
Despite that flaw, Liman’s film deserves to be seen because it teaches an important, timely lesson about the dangers of greed. It also daringly highlights some of America’s shadier dealings and operations during the Carter and Reagan administrations.
Much of the film is humorous, but when the viewer stops to think about what they’re laughing at, they may find it troubling. This is a film that challenges its audience to learn and think as much as it encourages them to sit back and enjoy the wild ride.
This is a loaded, eventful moviegoing experience. It has everything: comedy, suspense, history, drama and even romance. Cruise is clearly loving the role he is playing, and that joy is infectious to watch.
This is a movie that demands to be enjoyed, but it also begs to be discussed and even watched again. Despite a middle half that could have been more tightly focused, this is a crowd-pleaser with something for everybody. “American Made” is one of the most entertaining films of the year.