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American Made  : Cruising On Cocaine
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Friday, September 29, 2017
Doug Liman
Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Jesse Plemons

In the times of Pablo Escobar who ran the world’s biggest drug cartel from Columbia, Barry Seal was a busy TWA pilot. Dazzled by dollars and an eternalneed for the adrenaline high of adventure, Seal was famous in the Ronald Reagan-era for covert aerial photography for the CIA before he turned to smuggling cocaine, arms and ammunition. Money over morals, any day. If such a rake is worthy of a film on him it’s because of the compelling look at Reagan’s underhand politics in Nicaragua, his Commie-hatred and the backdrop of crime and drug cartels.


It’s also worthy of a watch solely because of Tom Cruise playing ‘The Gringo who always delivers’. Without Cruise’s charm and stardom, this could well have been a documentary with a voice-over.


‘Gringo’ Barry Seal’s biggest asset is his flying skill and he’s pretty cocky about it too. So if the price is better than right, and 2000 dollars per kilogram of cocaine more than fits that description, he can overload his aircraft and take off without a runway. Cesar Charlone’s camera cuts through the trees, shudders with the pilot and cruises with a sigh. It is a high watching Tom Cruise put the plane on auto pilot while he goes back to throw packets and packets of cocaine out of the aircraft, and gets rid of the smell before landing and breezing through Customs check in the US.


Director Doug Liman makes Gary Spinelli’s writing visually entertaining by not letting the seriousness of Seal’s crimes get heavy. Not even when Seal diverts arms for the Contras in Nicaragua to the cartel in Columbia and blithely ferries cocaine from there to the US. Like the light-hearted scene when Seal touches down in Nicaragua to find the locals more interested in his cool shades and girlie mags than in the arms sent by the CIA.


Seal neither cavorts with the women around the cartel nor snorts the stuff he transports. In fact he’s a happy family man back home, strictly in it for the money and the kick he gets from piloting himself in and out of trouble. Wife Lucy too has little to whine about after her husband throws wads of notes in different corners for her wish-list of buys.


There are two reasons to watch American Made. Knowing that Barry Seal really existed and that he did dare to do what’s been documented, provides a certain thrill. But most of all, it’s Tom Cruise, cheeky, charming and unflappable who makes this Mission Watchable.


For a crime and politics film based on a real-life story, American Made gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author


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