In director Doug Liman’s new film, a pilot, played by Tom Cruise, takes the audience on a larger-than-life CIA operation that turns into one of the best made and most fun films of the year, even if there are more than a few discrepancies with the real story.
In “American Made,” Barry Seal, a Trans World Airlines pilot, is given a chance to provide surveillance for the CIA amidst communist threats in Central America. His choices in going to Central and South America end up generating the rise of the Medellín cartel and almost taking down the Reagan administration.
This film parallels the real life and hectic situations of a pilot, by the same name, who created a reputation for himself smuggling drugs into the US.
Cruise’s filmography includes a plethora of classic action movies. One of the reasons he gets so much attention is his eagerness to perform his own stunts.
Joey Fajardo, SF State cinema major, admires Cruise as an actor and his ability to stand out in any film, especially in “American Made.”
“I can watch him do anything, [whether] he’s giving a good or bad one, you can tell he’s giving his all, that’s what makes him a one-of-a-kind,” he said. “This film kind of resembles elements of Mission Impossible, Jack Reacher and Top Gun, so yes, this is a film suited for the Tom Cruise.”
“American Made” might as well just have been named “Tom’s charisma,” because that part of him shined throughout the entire film.
Even though the character of Barry Seal can easily be seen as a despicable person who is only looking out for himself, Cruise wholly embodies this, plus adds the magnetism of an unpredictable and entertaining man.
“American Made” could have easily been ruined by a director that would have not been in tune with the star. Luckily, Liman chose Cruise, an actor whom he’s worked with in “Edge of Tomorrow” and will continue working with in “Luna Park,” to render the characteristics of Seal to the big screen; a perfect collaboration.
However, apprehensiveness is a word that comes up whenever a “based on a true story” movie is shown because of how true the film is to the real life situation.
Kayla Olesen, SF State fine arts major and animation minor, discusses the interest that the premise of “American Made” can stir up in the mainstream audience.
“I’ve read a bit on CIA involvement in Central and South America for a history class and I realized not many people have heard about this. [This movie] might spark up some curiosity into what really happened or this part of history that more often goes unspoken,” Olesen said. “There are always discrepancies in adapting real world events to the screen. Some stay more true to events than others.”
There are moments of injustice that the film makes that are blatant production choices for the film to look and feel better.
An example is Seal’s introduction to the world of cocaine. In real life, Seal was smuggling cocaine into the states before the Medellin cartel got a hold of him. He was arrested in Honduras and was sent to a prison for nine months, in time meeting Jorge Ochoa’s New Orleans business manager.
“American Made” created its own timeline in order for the script to flow better, which it did.
The most important elements of film were the most truthful in how Seal actually carried out his life in the 1970s: He made a lot of money, almost as much as $500,000 per flight from Colombia and Central America to the US, and he didn’t have much of a choice as to whom to take orders from. He did it all and, eventually, it bit him in the butt.
While “American Made” stretches the true story to be more Hollywood-esque, Liman and Cruise illustrate what makes for a great documentary into an enjoyable drug-smuggling ride.
Samuel Crossley, alumnus of the SF State cinema department, said, “when it comes to fiction, the old saying goes ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story.'”