Randy’s Review: ‘American Made’

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cruise and the Contras

Tom Cruise is back with his famous smile in tact as he tackles the role of expert pilot Barry Seal who was at the center of the late '70s and Reagan-era '80s rise of the Medellin Cartel and Iran-Contras conspiracy.

Seal (Cruise), a TWA pilot in the late '70s is approached by Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), with the CIA and recruited to walk away from his job and serve his country flying reconnaissance missions over Central America. Schafer is setup with his own airplane and flight operation to allow him the freedom to fly as he chooses. Seal is warned however that nobody can know he is working for the CIA — including his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright).

Seal begins making his runs and the photos he brings back, amidst a barrage of gunfire, delight Schafer’s CIA bosses. Seal also becomes a delivery boy, dropping cash to General Noriega in exchange for information. As the pilot continues his risky, clandestine maneuvers, he begins to ask for more money from his CIA handler based on proven success. The CIA proves less than accommodating.

During one of his photo runs, Seal is whisked away in a car while attempting to refuel at a small airport. He is taken to the leaders of the Medellin Cartel who are struggling to get their cocaine shipments into the U.S. They offer him bags of cash in exchange for his pilot and drop services. An offer he can’t refuse, Seal begins balancing his CIA work and drug running work — traveling for the photos and picking up the coke for his return trip.

When Schafer learns of Seal’s side gig, he ups the ante and has Seal start running guns to the Contras in Honduras. The CIA relocate Seal and his growing family to a new location and gives him his own small airport to operate from. All of a sudden, he’s got guns, drugs and surveillance as his job — and he begins making money. So much money that he can’t keep it all safe.

Seal recruits a team of excellent pilots to join him on his runs and soon the team is living large — so large that other federal authorities begin taking notice.

The story follows Seal’s rise and eventual fall as the backdrop to all of the “Just Say No” and Iran-Contra moments that framed the mid-'80s history.

Many segments of the film are told through recordings Seal made to detail all that happened, a visual history of the events that transformed a simple commercial airline pilot into a key figure in one of the country’s biggest scandals of the Reagan-era.

Well acted, Cruise again shows why he remains one of Hollywood’s leading men. Viewers will certainly enjoy watching his role escalate in the tale and wonder how he is going to wiggle out of several jams which appear to be on the verge of earning him a trip to prison or the grave.

On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, “American Made” pops up 3 1/2 tasty tubs of well-popped and lavishly buttered goodness. Tom Cruise takes a step away from the action-genre to star in this real-life drama about a man who finds himself in the middle of guns, cocaine and several federal agencies seeking his flying talents. Good cast. Well acted and a story that will keep you engaged to the final credits. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 Theatres in Spencer.