American Made might be telling an interesting true story but a dragging pace and the juxtaposition between tone and content hurt the production overall.
Director: Doug Liman
Summary: A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.
In The Wolf of Wall Street we got to see a man live a decadent lifestyle as he completely ruined the lives of people around him. The movie was pretty obvious about the fact that we weren't supposed to empathize with the main character which gave the movie a consistent dark tone. American Made follows a similar story of a person getting rich off of the backs of ruining lives but seems to forget we aren't supposed to empathize with the main character. Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) might start out working for the good guys but eventually he is complicit in helping one of the deadliest cartels ever get the weapons and money they needed to destroy lives. The movie never takes the time to acknowledge that and instead focuses on hijinks and funny little stories of Seal as he gets away with everything.
That is not to say that the movie should have stopped itself dead to preach to the audience about how bad things were but the tone of the movie is one of comedy and the weight of what's going on never seems to be sink in. The drugs being brought into the United States are going to ruin lives, the guns Seal is smuggling are arming people that are going to murder hundreds of people, and no one seems to really care. While Seal might not care the movie itself seems to think that because Seal is played by Tom Cruise that charisma is enough to make us forgive all of the terrible things we see him doing.
There are a few moments where the reality of the situation comes home but no one really seems to linger on them. The framing device of the movie tips the hand of the ending for someone, like myself, who might be a little unfamiliar of the true story involved. It's also an oddly paced movie that clocks in at less than two hours, the credits start to roll at one hour and forty-five minutes, and it feels much longer than that. It's not a bad movie though. The story itself is interesting and probably better suited to a documentary rather than this version. The performances are fine and Cruise is doing his best Tom Cruise in that the theme from Top Gun is probably going to get stuck in your head.
American Made is telling the story of the rise of drug cartels and a man stuck in the middle trying to play so many different people you have to wonder if he's a genius or an idiot. Those moments are fascinating but the content being portrayed doesn't match the tone it's being portrayed it. It makes the movie drag and by the time it ends you'll wonder how less than two hours felt so damn long.