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Running Time:
1 hour, 55 minutes

Rating: R Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Adult.

Rating Explanation:
For language throughout and some sexuality/nudity

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
If you though Tom Cruise's career was dead is premature. His charm and energy and willingness to look like hell elevates this movie. He's terrific and the film is a lot of fun.

Additional Info:
Tom Cruise ... Barry Seal
Domhnall Gleeson ... Monty 'Schafer'
Sarah Wright ... Lucy Seal
Jesse Plemons ... Sheriff Downing
Caleb Landry Jones ... JB
Lola Kirke ... Judy Downing
Jayma Mays ... Dana Sibota
Alejandro Edda ... Jorge Ochoa
Benito Martinez ... James Rangel
E. Roger Mitchell ... Agent Craig McCall
Jed Rees ... Louis Finkle
Fredy Yate Escobar ... Carlos Ledher
Mauricio Mejía ... Pablo Escobar
Robert Farrior ... Oliver North

American Made
Based on the checkered career of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a pilot who got involved with both the Medellin drug cartel, transporting their product to the United States, and with the American intelligence community, which used him in its clandestine program to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua by arming and training the so-called contras. The double game eventually got him killed. A great many allegations have been concocted about Seal’s earlier activities by conspiracy theorists, but Gary Spinelli’s script, based on several book about the guy, ignores them, beginning only in 1978 when he is a TWA pilot bored with the routine of his job. Caught smuggling Cuban cigars, he’s recruited by a CIA agent calling himself Schaefer (Domhnall Gleeson) to fly risky missions over various Latin American countries in a super-fast spy plane to photograph rebel groups in their camps, though he conceals the fact from his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen), who keeps the home fires burning.

His CIA-sponsored flights bring him—unbeknownst to his handler—to the attention of Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) and Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia), up-and-coming drug lords who insist that he add a lucrative sideline to his operations by taking bales of their cocaine to the U.S. Though he has doubts about the short runway they insist on his using and refuses to fly the coke to Miami as they wish, he devises a workable plan to drop it off in Louisiana and relies on his guts to make it into the air. The deliveries become a regular part of his  making him a rich man without Schaefer being any the wiser.

Both sides of Seal’s operation grow exponentially, and though setbacks involving the DEA necessitate his moving with his family to a small town in Arkansas, before long he owns a large tract of land as well as an airport, hosts a contra training camp run by the CIA, hires a squadron of oddball fliers, and is so flush with cash that he literally runs out of room to put it all. Unfortunately, the arrival of his careless, greedy brother-in-law J.B. (Caleb Landry Jones) throws a monkey wrench into things, and leads to his being dragged into the Reagan White House’s efforts to tie the Sandinista regime to the drug trade as an informant against the cartel—which ultimately not only brings about his downfall but seals his fate.

Tom Cruise invests Seal with every bit of energy he can muster, rushing about almost maniacally as he flashes his trademark smile and rattles off reams of smooth talk, even under the worst pressure.  To tie the escalating complications of the plot together in a way the audience can understand, director Doug Liman resorts to various devices—crudely-drawn animated inserts, montages of archival news footage, and excerpts from a video “confession” prepared by Cruise’s Seal over his last days, which also allows Cruise’s flyboy to impress upon us how increasingly wild and crazy the whole chain of events became.

The approach gives the convoluted plot some shape while preserving the messiness essential to Seal’s habit of escaping trouble by coming up with some outlandish excuse or absurd seat-of-the-pants decision. The most outrageous example comes when he’s seemingly trapped in mid-flight by a couple of DEA planes, only to choose to make a sudden landing in a suburban neighborhood; it would be an understatement to say that the episode defies credibility.

That points to the fundamental weakness of American Made: as satire it seems shallow, even juvenile, more buffoonish clown show than edgy dissection of real events. It’s not simply that the characters are all caricatures—that’s part of the natural process of satire, after all. It’s that they’re not sharply-drawn caricatures. One could, of course, also grumble that giving a semi-heroic cast to a guy who made hay ferrying cocaine into the country isn’t such a good idea. But that would undo a long history of cinema’s glorifying the antihero

Frankly, the machinations surrounding the Iran-Contra scandal deserve something more than a jokey send-up; but for what it is, though, it earns a marginal pass.

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