When it comes to biographical movies, it doesn’t seem to take much for studios to grab my attention. Now this doesn’t mean that the genre automatically churns out box office gold, it’s more that the real life nature of these projects are simply a lot more intriguing. This remains the case for American Made, as despite knowing next to nothing about Barry Seal, the marketing department at Universal Pictures still had no trouble in grabbing my interest. Since leaving the cinema, I can gladly report that my optimism wasn’t in vain, as despite its flaws American Made proves to be an engaging movie that knows its target audience.
Doug Liman directs this biopic, and given the mixture of good and bad projects he’s worked on in the past, you could be forgiven for being more than a little sceptical. What we get here, on the other hand, is a wonderful display of storytelling as along with screenwriter, Gary Spinelli, the director captures the tone of this time period perfectly. The way the talent blends in scratchy handheld footage, and archive like cinematography also helps give an authentic look to the project, with it feeling smack dab in the middle of the late ’70s, early ’80s. The chaotic nature of the narrative also comes across beautifully on screen, with the musical score of Christophe Beck highlighting this perfectly.
We’ve become that uses to seeing Tom Cruise in over the top action movies, that it’s remarkably refreshing to see the actor star in a biopic. Taking on the role of Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who is brought into the CIA and eventually becomes a smuggler for the Medellín Cartel, Cruise gives us a performance unlike any we’ve seen from him before. Granted, we still get the bold, brash Tom Cruise, but the real life situation and slower pace allows the talent to show the length of his dramatic skills. Accompanying Cruise we get wonderful performances from Sarah Wright (Lucy Seal) and Domhnall Gleeson (Monty Schafer), with the later in particular standing out as the forceful CIA agent.
Despite all this the movie isn’t without its flaws, with there being a few aspects that don’t quite work. The main one that stands out to me, is the unsavoury way the cast and crew try and blend drama with comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few instances where this works wonderfully, it’s just that for each of these there are at least two examples that feel awkward. In addition to this we also get a few pacing problems throughout this film, with there being a couple of scenes that drag a little. Nevertheless, the talent both in front and behind the camera give us an entertaining biopic that is most definitely worth the trip to the cinema.
American Made is an excellent biopic, that utilises both its cast and time period to tremendous effect. It may not be the best movie making the round the now, having more than a few flaws, but ultimately it proves to be a fun and enjoyable product. The talent of our cast also helps to get us through the murkier moments of the plot, with the charisma of leading man Tom Cruise being as infectious as ever.
(7.5 / 10)