American Made: a glamorised version of a true story

Last Updated: 24 Aug 2017
Tian Sisak
Undoubtedly a glamorised version of a true story, American Made comes with plenty of action and airplanes to keep things thrilling.
Fans of hit Netflix series Narcos will be familiar with the true story behind American Made. The protagonist is Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) – a competent but bored TWA pilot who starts flying undercover for the CIA, then soon begins drug-smuggling for the Medellin drug cartel, including Pablo Escobar himself. Despite being a true story, the film is as much about Tom Cruise as it is Barry. His performance is enjoyable in its familiarity as Cruise does what he does best, embodying charm, charisma and confidence to lend the character a large dose of heroism.

Director Doug Liman’s (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) latest creation is ambitious in scope, as he attempts to condense nearly 10 years of turbulent history into a 2 hour film, from Colombian drug-smuggling to U.S government corruption. The roving camera style supports the chaotic storyline, as archived footage from South America is juxtaposed with Seal’s own account of his experiences working for both sides. The cinematography helps to show there’s no good or bad guys in this situation – everyone’s hands are dirty.

Seal’s alliance with both the CIA and the Medellin cartel established his role as 'the gringo who delivers'. It doesn’t matter if he’s flying drugs, guns or taking secret photographs for the CIA – Seal just goes along with the hand he’s been dealt and watches the money roll in, literally running out of places to store his surplus cash. It’s as if he can’t believe his luck throughout the whole movie.

The complex storyline can be exhausting at times, with under-developed characters that suffer due to the amount of screen time that focuses on Cruise’s Colgate smile. But the humorous and somewhat irreverent tone keeps things going. Sarah Wright puts in a powerful performance as Seal’s wife, Lucy – a gorgeous stay-at-home mum who takes no shit from her husband and makes her opinions known. Although their relationship is somewhat peripheral and secondary to Seal’s jet-setting career in the film, Wright’s performance highlights just how ludicrous her husband’s sudden rise to riches is. Although dubious of Seal’s activities at first, it’s not long until Lucy is soon playing the perfect housewife while happily drowning in money and diamonds.

American Made nods towards Liman’s previous action-packed films, but the difference lies in its complex and tumultuous real-life history. The outcome is a fun, if slightly frenzied, plot, which delivers on an accurate version of true events.

American Made is on general release now.


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