By Nathan Box (guest writer)
PLOT: “American Made” is the story of a TWA pilot named Barry Seal, who became a drug runner for the CIA in the 1980s. Through poor government oversight and a failed attempt to fight both the war on drugs and the spread of communism, the entire operation was exposed to the public as the Iran-Contra affair.
RATING: 4/5 stars
REVIEW: If you are reading this at work, take a look around you. How many years have you been coming to this place? How long have you been going through the same routines? Do you feel stuck and uninspired? Then you can relate to the predictable life of Barry Seal played by Tom Cruise. Barry is a TWA pilot going through the motions. Once upon a time, he was destined for greatness, but now he finds himself doing just enough to get by and make it in America.
Everything changes when the CIA approaches Barry in a bar. What began as a mission to do reconnaissance work turns into something much more interesting.
Soon, flying through dangerous regions and being shot at wasn’t enough. Barry needs more and the lure of cocaine pulls him forward. Here, our star meets the true gods of Colombia — Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar. They want Barry’s help to fly cocaine into Miami. Instead of Miami, he convinces the drug kingpins to pick the bayous of Louisiana. Before you know it, Barry is making more money than he knows how to spend.
It is at this point my first real concern for the movie rises. The film seems to have timeline issues.
For example, as Barry begins to expand his operation in 1980, the movie mentions Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s War on Drugs and Just Say No campaign. Reagan was elected in November of 1980 but he didn’t become president until January of 1981. This doesn’t ruin the film but it did catch me off guard.
My second concern for this film was the plot itself. In so many ways, it reminded me of the Johnny Depp film, “Blow.” Without a doubt, the Colombians relied on countless people to sneak cocaine into the U.S. but the stories seemed so similar I couldn’t help but chuckle and wonder. For both characters, the good times are amazing. They have with pristine homes, clothes, cars, cash and admiration. They also set up a scenario you know is coming — the fall. For both, the fall begins with a betrayal and living beyond your means.
Where the film diverges from “Blow,” is how the drugs and communism cross paths. Time and time again, Barry is used as a pawn by the government. When it is discovered just how much money he is making in from South America, the U.S. creates a plot to use him once again. This time, they do it to cover themselves. The U.S. have been selling weapons to the South Americans without the consent of Congress and they need the American people to believe the Colombians, Iranians, Contra and Communism are all in bed together. They need proof and Barry is their guy. This is the ultimate decision for Barry and the most dramatic in the entire movie.
For lifting the curtains on some of the events that lead to the Iran-Contra affair, this movie is worthy of your time and money. Just try to remember: we’ve seen some of this story before.