Plot: Barry (Tom Cruise) is a commercial airline pilot who makes good money and has a family he loves, but he is restless with his lot in life. The grind of routine flights has worn on him and the sole spark of intrigue is when he smuggles cigars, but even that has become mundane. When he is approached by a man who claims to be CIA, Barry is all ears and while his purpose is a little unclear, he strongly considers the job he is offered on the spot. A minor attempt to stay in his current lifestyle happens, but Barry is soon back at the CIA and put into action, given a powerful plane of his own and orders to fly to South America. There he will fly over some communist compounds and take recon photos, then return the surveillance to his bosses. This proves to be just the rush was Barry was after, as he is shot at and has to rely on his pilot skills to survive, but he loves the assignments. He needs more cash however, which is what makes him open to an offer from a cocaine cartel, promising endless riches. But can Barry juggle the needs of the CIA and a drug cartel, or is he in over his head?
Entertainment Value: American Made is based on real life events, but unlike most biopics, it ditches a realistic approach and turns Barry Seal’s story into an over the top, darkly comic action movie. The tone here flashes between deadly serious and absurd, but it always feels like a smooth transition and given the wild things that happen, such a tonal shift isn’t all unrealistic. The end result might be an odd approach for a based on real life narrative, but this is one of the truly stranger than fictions stories out there, so it needed to be a spectacle. Tom Cruise is fun to watch and while I wouldn’t call his turn here a classic thespian effort, his manic presence and amplified swagger do wonders for the role, without question. The same can be said for the most of the cast, who embrace the absurd drama of the approach. Some of the supporting cast members include Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Caleb Jones, and Alejandro Edda among others, forming a solid overall lineup. Those looking for a serious take on an important political/social series of events might be let down, but if you just want a fun rocket ride back to the 80s, American Made delivers on that front.
A few bare asses, including Barry’s, as he seems to prefer mooning his family to a more traditional goodbye. No blood. There’s some violence at times, mostly off screen gun shots and one car explosion, but no bloodshed. The movie offers up some solid action however, with a some plane stunt set pieces, including a fun one where Barry lands in a an urban locale to evade capture. So for a dark comedy/drama, American Made keeps a brisk pace and throws in some nice action sequences. The dialogue is colorful and over the top, especially when Cruise pushes his performance into absurdity, which happens a lot here. Barry’s CIA contact is also a ridiculous character, full of bad ideas and rarely able to grasp how bad things have gotten. So some goofy, fun lines make it through, amped up by Cruise’s offbeat performance. The premise is pretty wild, but then the movie jolts it into over the top territory, which is fun to watch, but makes it feel like a cartoon at times, not an incredible true story. But even so, this one deserves a couple points just for the wild ride it offers.
Overall Insanity: 3/10