‘American Made’ engages viewers with dramatic history


Photo Credit: @AmMadeMovie on twitter

By Lindsey Ramsdell, Editor-in-Chief

“American Made,” a movie inspired by true events, keeps viewers constantly engaged through fast-paced action and periodic, comedic breaks. Tom Hanks stars as Barry Seal, a commercial pilot who gets recruited by the CIA to take clandestine images of Central America during the Cold War. However, looking for a little side cash, he gets involved in the Colombian drug trade, working as a deliverer for one of the most powerful drug cartels in history.

“American Made” combines two of the most popular themes among movie-goers: the idea of the hero that rose from humble beginnings and the rags-to-riches businessman that isn’t afraid to take some risks. Seal, although he is eventually recognized as an American hero, doesn’t have the cleanest record. Yet the audience finds themselves rooting for him all the same.

The movie does a good job of sticking to historical context, although it’s clear that the retelling has been stretched for dramatic effect. For example, the DEA, CIA, FBI and state police all pouncing on Seal’s operation at the exact same time is quite unlikely to have actually occurred. Much of the struggle of finding his drug transporting business is skipped over in order to focus more on the glamorous lifestyle of wealth that Seal comes to live in.

“American Made” uses a unique style of organizing the events which helps viewers keep track of the ever-changing lifestyle of Barry Seal. It begins with Seal filming the first of a series of video diaries that documents his transformation from small-town pilot to a life of insane wealth. Throughout the film, it returns to his video diaries to give readers a minute to pause and catch up to the swiftly moving plot. Also throughout the movie, subtitles appear on the screen that gives the year and the organization that he was working for at the time. Both help viewers keep track of where they are in Seal’s unbelievable biography.

Fans of “Narcos” will find this movie especially interesting, as it offers some insight into the uprising of the infamous Medellin cartel. Seal meets with Pablo Escobar and Jorge Ochoa on numerous occasions. However, the comedy and less violent style of Seal’s operations gives it a much more light-hearted tone.

Unfortunately, this light-hearted tone occasionally interferes with the accurate portrayal of situations. Some of the more serious scenes are handled with less gravity than they actually deserve.

Through its comedy, action and glamour, “American Made” is a movie that never lets its viewers lose interest. But, the complicated plot, explicit language, occasional sexual scenes and violence are not for everyone.