Leaving the theater, I attempted to mull over what it was about this film that really stood out to me. I pondered on things like the script, the acting, and even the directing style, and each time I thought, “No, that’s not it.”
Then it came to me.
What stands out about American Made is not one conventional aspect, or even all of them: it is the title itself. American Made is not just an exciting biopic, but also a subtle commentary on the American way of life, whether it attempts to be or not.
Director Doug Liman and superstar Tom Cruise team up yet again after a successful outing with their sci-fi action thriller, Edge of Tomorrow. American Made, however, has a different tune, seeing as it is based on a true story. The film centers on a bored and unfulfilled Barry Seal (Cruise), and even though he has a beautiful wife and family, he can’t seem to find satisfaction in life. This changes after an unexpected encounter, or so he thinks, with government agent Schafer. Schafer, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina), recruits Seal for his aviation skills, in the hopes that he can help bring an end to the war in the Western Hemisphere against communism. Seal is all for it, as he sees this as chance for him to do something he hasn’t yet done in his life—live.
American Made is as entertaining as it gets. The story of Barry Seal is so saturated with captivating narrative that there is never a dull moment. And even though this film is considered a drama, I found myself laughing throughout its entirety. This is not because it is a genuine comedy, but rather this man’s life was so incredible, you can’t help but laugh in disbelief. The narrative is definitely this film’s strongest asset; although it lacked a truly deep story and characters, it still found a way to be engaging.
As for performances, there really weren’t any that stood out, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. All the actors showed up and did what they were supposed to do. They memorized their lines, understood their characters, and put forth satisfactory performances. The most remarkable thing here is that Cruise actually learned how to fly all these planes. Meaning, in whatever scenes you could physically see him in a plane, he was actually flying. That puts this film over the top as it eliminates more chances of using a green screen and inserting special effects, thus allowing the film to have more authenticity.
Liman’s direction is what really intrigues me here. This film seemed distinctive from others in his past. The cinematic coloring he implemented was absolutely stunning, evoking real emotion out of the shot. But there were times that the actual shot composition perplexed me. I say this because there were a lot of times where he would choose an angle that almost seemed indulgent rather than beneficial to the story. Maybe I’m missing something, but it almost seemed like he was experimenting with a different style. This wasn’t a bad move, because although distracting, it still wasn’t enough to take away from the overall story.
Even though American Made is not perfect from a cinematic standard, it is still astounding to watch. The story itself stands out from most other films and allows for a truly memorable experience as it preaches the dangers of excess in a dazzling fashion. This is definitely a movie you need to go watch.
7 of 10
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