I’m not much of a Tom Cruise fan. Generally, I don’t care for him much as an actor and find he works best playing shallow characters whether it’s menacingly as in Collateral or surprisingly hilariously in Tropic Thunder. He makes for a decent action hero, all told, but I’m not much of a fan.
So, while The Mummy was a bit of a flop, he has another movie out this year called American Made where he plays a pilot who got in over his head. How did this turn out?
Better this time.
Cruise is Barry Seal, a commercial airline pilot who is somewhat itchy to do more than simply fly sleepy passengers between mid-sized cities. One day Barry is approached by a fellow he knows only as “Schafer” (Domhnall Gleason), a CIA agent with a proposition: fly some recon missions for the CIA and get some action out of his life and maybe help the country in the process. As it is, Barry says yes or else there isn’t much of a movie, and off he goes. But then bills start piling up in part because he can’t tell his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen) what he really does, but then he gets approached by members of the Medellin Cartel to run drugs for them. It gets weirder from there, as Barry is given more and more tasks both by the cartel and the Reagan-era CIA to run drugs, guns, and eventually contras to and from the States. As everyone seems to be paying Barry in cash, he soon is awash in funds. At one point, Barry has quite literally run out of places to hide the many, many bags of cash he has as he cannot launder it or hide it faster than it comes in.
Cruise and the script play Barry as an affable everyman. His corruption doesn’t come about so much from his own choices. He’s more or less forced into them, but he never seems to let that show. He just smiles and promises he’ll figure out whatever he has to do. Director Doug Liman keeps things moving briskly, and the film has a rather lighthearted tone given the subject matter. The whole thing is based on a true story, and Barry comes across as a mostly innocent man pushed into the position he’s in by powerful people all around him, but at the same time, he doesn’t seem to mind too much. Even as Barry’s inevitable fall starts to come around, he still seems to be taking everything in the same affable manner, making friends and doing what he needs to do, and largely prospering as he does. Eight and a half shifty brothers-in-law out of ten.