American Made: A Shoddy Product in a Nice Box [Review]
Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by: Gary Spinelli
Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, E. Roger Mitchell, Jesse Plemons, Lola Kirke, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez, Caleb Landry Jones, Jayma Mays
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date September 29, 2017 (United States)
Running time 117 minutes
Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Barry Seal, a TWA pilot, is recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America and soon finds himself in charge of one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States. The operation spawns the birth of the Medellin cartel and almost brings down the Reagan White House.
American Made is a mess of a film. While well directed and acted the script took far too much creative license with history, seeming to make light some heavy issues. While tonally out of balance and poorly paced, it was stylistically appealing. It was the epitome of a dreadful product in fantastic packaging. I am truly of two minds on this film, but ultimately the low quality of the content far outweighs the good filmmaking.
I found the overall style of the film quite appealing. A little lighthearted, a 1980s retro tint, and some creative camerawork. The film itself looked like it could very well have been made in the 80s, while that may not be appealing to everyone, I found it pleasantly nostalgic. The performances were snappy, and well executed, and the film was well cast. Even the over-the-top characters fit the style and tone of the film very well. This could have very easily been a very watchable and enjoyable film.
The problem, and it is a big problem, is the script, more specifically the story. If we completely ignore the egregious and obvious creative liberty with which history was treated, we are still left with a subject matter that is almost diametrically opposed to the tone. That opposition is not a good thing, it doesn’t add to what this film is saying, in fact it tramples any statements the filmmakers may have been trying to make.
That says nothing of the nearly criminal rewriting of history which does little service to the film, or story. In fact, it does a tremendous disservice to the truth of history. While film based on history play fast and loose with some facts and events, most are approached with an ethos that keeps the roots of the history intact. The major flaw here is that this is not ancient history, these are events which took place less than forty years ago. It would have taken an afternoon on Wikipedia for screenwriter Gary Spinelli to realize his idea for a story would be far stronger if he separated it from history. I cannot recommend this film to anyone, even for the redeemable qualities I recognize, your time would be better spent browsing Wikipedia than spending a grueling 117 minutes watching American Made.