Film review of American Made – Three Stars ***

Tom Cruise brings his movie star charisma to an incredible story of spying and drug running in Reagan’s America. If it wasn’t true you just wouldn’t believe it.

There aren’t many actors currently working in movies with quite the charisma of Tom Cruise. Whether you are a fan or not it is impossible to deny that he has a powerfully engaging screen presence, harking back to an age of bankable film actors and star power that has now largely passed.

Director Doug Liman’s new film features Cruise as Barry Seal who in the 70s and 80s worked simultaneously for the US government and the Columbian drug cartel. As presented here, his is a story that you wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t true. Within the first twenty five minutes of the movie he has gone from being a bored airline pilot to a CIA operative to one of Pablo Escobar’s best cocaine smugglers and pretty soon he is flying other types of elicit cargo back and forth from South America for both sides. He begins to literally amass more money than he knows what to do with and the action shifts between his equally precarious work and home life. Domhnall Gleeson and Sarah Wright give good performances playing his handler and his wife respectively, one of them proving to be a lot more loyal than the other.

The truth is clearly stretched to some extent but the most incredible parts are a matter of historical record. It is fascinating to see how far Reagan’s government was prepared to go to gain leverage in Nicaragua and there are things here that probably still wouldn’t have come to light had it not been for the very public Iran-Contra Scandal. It is surely no coincidence that this has come out now at a time of fake news and renewed suspicion in the dealings of American politicians.

American Made is a slick and stylized movie that will definitely give you a good old fashioned night out at the pictures with a good old fashioned movie star. It isn’t afraid to deal with the darker aspects of what happened in Seal’s life, although arguably it could go further in this respect, but this is not what it aims to do. It mostly just wants to be entertaining and it absolutely succeeds at that.

By Mark Waters

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