American Made – made my night

Last weekend we booted up Netflix to watch Tom Cruise play pilot Barry Seal in American Made and I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

Tom Cruise in American Made
Image courtesy of Netflix

I know, I know, you hate Tom Cruise. Seems just about everybody does. But really, this thrice-divorced, couch-jumping Scientologist with a slightly off-centre set of teeth (did I miss anything?) is a bloody good actor – you just have to ignore whatever irritates you about the man and focus on his performances.

What I liked about American Made:

  • It was entertaining. It moved, it told a story, it had interesting, believable characters who all had their role to play. And it was quite often outright funny!
  • The opening scene was wonderfully original – I just watched it again this morning to remind myself how it segued from the conventional to the whimsical to the historical/educational – without me even realising it.
  • It was nothing like Top Gun. When I knew Cruise was playing a pilot, my first thought was ‘Ugh, bor-ing!’ But his characterisation of Seal was well-rounded, watchable and consistent. The initial scene sets the tone of his character so well.
  • I didn’t feel manipulated by the screenplay. So many movies attempt to amp up your love of the main character before putting them in a really dangerous situation so that your adrenaline is pumping, then saving them so you get a huge sense of relief. Unfortunately, those movies tend to just irritate me as I can see the manipulation happening. American Made doesn’t do that. Sure, you want Seal to win, even if he’s doing the wrong thing in part, and it takes good scriptwriting to get you to cheer for the guy who’s not so clean, but the script tells the story in a way that you can just sit back and enjoy it without feeling like you’re being emotionally manipulated.
  • It’s interesting. Depending on what you read, a lot of this movie is pure fantasy, but even if it is fully-concocted fiction, it’s still interesting: you can see how someone could be approached to work for the CIA and not be in a position to refuse. Then they’re approached by a criminal organisation with an offer to work for them, too – and again, literally not be in a position to refuse. Accept or die. And so it goes – until you have three or four masters and you’re trying to keep yourself alive while serving all of them. The ordinary person really doesn’t know – and never will know – exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of organisations like the CIA, and American Made, whether fact or fiction, did seem quite plausible to me … scarily so.
  • Spot the Plemons. Yes – I have developed a little game of ‘Spot the Plemons’. It seems Jesse Plemons is determined to pop up in everything I see these days, and while he only had a small role in American Made, he was, as always, worth watching. Ironically, I didn’t even notice him in The Master when I reviewed that – so he’s been popping up in front of me for longer than I realised!
  • The support cast – like Jesse Plemons, the support cast were well-chosen and very watchable, believable and entertaining.
  • The music! American Made makes great use of the music of the time to remind you that you’re watching the 1980s. So many songs I’d danced (badly) to … so many songs I’d forgotten …
  • It made me think – how much money is too much money? And what’s the point in having it if you can’t spend it?

What I didn’t like:

  • Um … still trying to think of something …

Do yourself a favour (sorry, Molly!), and give American Made a go – especially if you’ve not watched a Cruise movie for a long time. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised – and happily entertained!

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