The relentless energy of American Made, coupled with a charming Tom Cruise performance, keeps this Barry Seal quasi-biopic intriguing and moving along. Gary Spinelli’s script certainly has a patchwork feel, as evidenced by the number of characters (played by noteworthy actors) dropping in and out of the story as well as the way it jumps from scene to scene. To compensate, director Doug Liman injects the film with a snappy vigor and bolsters its comedic punches. Doing so not only allows cinematographer César Charlone to get creative with his camera movements and placements, but also milks all the charisma it can from Cruise, whose broad grin is nearly omnipresent. As funny as the film is, it begs for a compelling protagonist, which the flat Barry is not. Sure, one could say that the character represents American foreign policy during the Carter and Reagan eras, but he lacks an arc worth investing in, which gives the impression that the story skims over the subject matter instead of really diving headfirst into it. Still, it does offer some impressive treats, like Domhnall Gleeson’s role as Barry’s sleazy CIA handler and Dan Weil’s faithful period design. The picture may be rather lightheaded, but it’s undeniably entertaining and well crafted.
* Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures