Tom Cruise’s new movie opens in late ’70s USA: A bored TWA pilot named Barry Seal is approached by the CIA and is asked to assist them with the rising communist threat in Central America. While there, he *accidentally* helps create the Medellin cocaine cartel. Oops.

Within the first few scenes of American Made we establish two things. The first is, yes, Cruise is still good looking (see also, here). Secondly, the film has the audience asking themselves for the first time (of what will be many times): so, are we rooting for this guy or not?

Once he unwittingly becomes a part of the cartel organisation, Barry’s greed kicks in, Wolf-Of-Wall-Street-style. He manages to juggle working for the CIA and the Medellin cartel for a while, smuggling guns into Central America whilst also smuggling cocaine out.

As both sides ask of more and more from the character, the suspense builds, and the consistent jumping between time keeps the storyline well paced and engaging. However, the story progresses from one ridiculous job to the next, and you soon begin to wonder how the plot could realistically get any crazier – but it just keeps going.


The ludicrous wealth Barry begins to enjoy acts as a welcome point of comic relief between the tension, but when it does all come to an end, it’s a little anti-climatic and emotionless.

At least the styling of the film is beautifully done. Beginning with a grainy aesthetic, hand-held camera and crash zooms embrace the late ’70s aesthetic, as we move into fluid, bold and colourful shots during the early ’80s. It’s all set between the lush forests and buzzing city backdrops of Central America, and juxtaposed with the small towns of Louisiana and Arkansas.

It’s great for what it is – an entertaining action film filled with money, drugs, betrayal, and Tom Cruise flying planes. Which, in the end, is what he does best right?

-Melissa Sugarman

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