When looking at history, it’s amazing just how many stories out there that can still be told. When you look at it, we’re moving into an era where getting movies like American Made out there might actually be easier due to at least some people being more open to hearing about what has happened in the past in terms of our governments and the agencies who are becoming more known as taking part in some dubious dealings around the world.
And while we’ve known about Bobby Seal for some time now, we’ve never had a movie featuring him as the main focus. Now with Tom Cruise as the confident pilot, director Doug Liman and writer Gary Spinelli offer up that chance by creating a movie based on his actual international escapades. While only starting out as an airline pilot, Seal eventually saw himself take on the roles of drug smuggler and even government informant in what would become one of the biggest covert operations in U.S. history.
American Made is not only face-paced, it also offers many of the qualities that you might want and expect from something like this. In that way, it surely delivers and allows its audience to become engaged from the early going. Then again, if you’re looking for the typical modern version of a Tom Cruise movie, you may have to look elsewhere.
These days, Cruise is known for those big budget action movies where he does his own stunts and spends a good chunk of time running as fast as possible away from storms, bullets and explosions. In American Made, you get a flow that’s kind of similar to what you may expect from those types of action movies starring the actor, but this is really more of a swift moving comedy/drama with a carefree nature about itself than it is anything else.
While I appreciate the direction of the movie and the brisk pace that it has, the film does struggle with gaining consistency and adding depth. For whatever reason, much of what’s seen here is unstable and lacks the kind of balance that movies from a director like Doug Liman should have. And although we also get to know some stuff about the personal life of Barry Seal, we never become connected to him or any of the people who surround him.
This is partially made difficult to pull off since the filmmakers behind this wouldn’t be able to find out much about certain characters who apparently actually existed in real life but wouldn’t have too much out there about them publicly. Then there are other characters who don’t stay on-screen long enough for us to really get a sense of who they are. These factors create natural issues when attempting to establish the type of depth normally necessary for audiences to attach themselves to what’s happening.
The other reason for this is due to the lighter tone that American Made takes on from the start. And even though I didn’t mind this when telling this specific story, it doesn’t really allow you to take what’s happening as seriously as you probably should. Then again, that might be the point. Maybe handling it in this way doesn’t allow us to see Bobby Seal as the criminal that he was. This could be seen as important since he is the film’s protagonist. However, having presented it this way and not having any type of connection to the characters makes watching something like this feel more like a cliff notes version of a movie than an actual movie.
In spite of my complaints, this movie manages to provide entertainment throughout its duration. Each of the relevant characters does help in bringing life into what’s taking place and the events that we witness more than proves that this is story that’s worth being told. With everything that we witness, it’s easy to see how audiences can get behind American Made even if there are some alterations that could have been made to turn this into a fantastic feature film.
Director: Doug Liman
Caleb Landry Jones
Film Length: 115 minutes
Release Date: September 29, 2017
Distributor: Universal Pictures
- Score - 6.5/106.5/10