Anytime I mention to my family that I’m going to see a Tom Cruise movie, they roll their eyes and take the piss. The words ‘man crush’ are used, and I just take it on the chin (sometimes). The truth is though, many of my favourite movies are Tom Cruise movies. I’m not a fan of his earlier stuff (my wife is the complete opposite), but I pretty much love anything after his Vanilla Sky/Magnolia days. And he’s clearly a hell of a nice guy outside of the movies too, despite what anything thinks about his religious beliefs. But then he went and made The Mummy earlier this year – a serious dip in Cruise quality. Can American Made be the movie to get him back on track?
It certainly is an idea role for Cruise. Based on a true story, Cruise plays Barry Seal. Top pilot for TWA and bored of the same old routine day in, day out. When his co-pilot and passengers are all asleep during a flight, he relieves the monotony by faking some heavy turbulence in order to wake them all up, but it’s not enough. So, when he’s approached by CIA agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) to work for them, flying exciting reconnaissance missions over South America, he jumps at the chance. And then during a refueling stop in Colombia, Seal is recruited by Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel, who offer to pay him $2000 for each kilo of cocaine he can carry from Columbia to Louisiana. Then he begins flying guns from Arkansas to Nicaragua while still continuing the drugs runs. Seal finds himself with more money than he can spend, burying bags of it in his backyard and piling it up in wardrobes. He can’t turn around without bumping into money, and all the while the stakes are getting higher, the potential consequences of his actions increasing.
Caught up in among all of this are Seals wife and kids. Finding themselves woken by him at 4am and being told they need to move home before their house is raided at 6am, before gradually adjusting to their new, increasingly expensive lifestyle. We never quite get to spend enough time with that part of Barry’s life, taking a backseat instead to the roller coaster thrill seeking that he’s got himself wrapped up in outside of home.
Cruise charms and grins his way through all of this perfectly. Obviously he did all of the flying scenes himself and he must have had a real blast making this movie. There’s a good deal of humour throughout and the use of film grain, handheld cameras and Kodak style lighting help to give it a real 70s-80s feel to match the era it’s set in. A fun, entertaining movie and a return to form for Mr Cruise!