Hot Take: Is this the movie that gets Tom Cruise his Academy Award? Ehhh… probably not. It’s a pretty good film and a pretty strong performance from Cruise nonetheless.
American Made, the “based on a true story” tale that re-teams director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) with Tom Cruise, is far from an accurate historical account of the life and death of Barry Seal. The film looks to be less of a drama or an attempt to bring this already interesting story to life but instead focuses on the comedic elements of the tale and goes out of its way to tailor the character of Seal to be more fitting of Cruise’s unique brand of acting and charm. It works as a movie but there will be plenty who will take issue with the artistic liberties and Cruise’s undeniable smugness and, when dealing with something documented historically, they’ll have a strong argument.
Personally, I’m a fan of Cruise so none of this bothers me. That’s how it typically works. You let people get away with a lot more when you like them. However, even me as a big Cruise fan, could see where the filmmakers might have compromised the real story to fit Cruise’s style. The real-life Seal was a thrice married pilot who was somewhat of a bumpkin with an entrepreneurial spirit but minus a little bit of a Southern drawl, the Cruise version of Seal is a hot shot, bored TWA pilot who catches the attention of the CIA and then the Pablo Escobar drug cartel because, well, isn’t
Tom Cruise Barry Seal so damn cool?
At it’s core, American Made feels more like a summer popcorn flick than one worthy of discussion when it comes to any sort of hardware recognition. Cruise delivers on the entertainment side but he doesn’t stray very far from his comfort zone. The film is fast-paced, near breakneck at times, and highly entertaining but it doesn’t even take fact checking to know this one is fast and loose with the truth. What you never realize in watching this movie unfold is that Tom Cruise is now in his 50s. He never looks it, never acts it and even though his subject is in his early 40s in the film, he never even appears to be that old.
If you’re looking for an entertaining popcorn flick with true elements but essentially a work of fiction, American Made is a fitting choice. If you’re expecting an Awards-caliber drama with insightful historical precision, you’re not going to find it here. It’s possible Cruise finds himself amongst the nominees for some Awards and considering the comedic nature of most of American Made, he could be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical but this isn’t the “one” Cruise was looking for. It might be his best performance in years (at least since the last time Liman and Cruise teamed up anyway) but it’s still not the performance Cruise earns that elusive Academy Award.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Cruise Fan Delight
If you’re a fan of Cruise’s work and looking for something closer to the work earlier in his career, American Made is a great opportunity to go back in time, almost. At some point, Cruise will age but it isn’t this role as Cruise appears to be much younger than his actual age and even a little younger than his subject matter.
- Even With All of the Moving Parts, American Made Continues to Work
There’s plenty going on in American Made and it would be easy for it to feel overstuffed but Liman keeps it all moving smooth. The frenetic pace and non-stop progression keeps the film entertaining and light despite the heaviness of its material.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Embellishments Are As Untrue As They Feel
The tale of Barry Seal is interesting even without the crash landing in a suburban neighborhood that creates a mushroom cloud of cocaine which covers Cruise’s character from head to toe. Yet the filmmakers can’t help themselves in adding these elements for entertainment purposes.