Ready for some high-flying action, with lots of fun, suspense and adventure? Of course you are! At long last, it’s time for our review of Tom Cruise’s latest film – American Made! (We might be a little jealous that most other countries got to see it before we did, but we forgive you, Universal! The movie was well worth the wait!)
Smartass Summary: The other other other one with the airplanes.
Slightly less smartass summary: If regular people acted like Tom Cruise characters.
Ok ok, REAL summary: Family man holds down three jobs to provide for his wife and kids.
Buttered Popcorn loves this movie! It’s funny, exciting and touching all at once. American Made is based on a true story, and includes lots of little tidbits of history that add both to our understanding of the plot, and to our enjoyment of the movie. But you don’t have to know a thing about politics, or the late ’70’s/early ’80’s to understand and enjoy the movie. Your friendly neighborhood drug smuggler will guide you through it all, and tell you everything you need to know.
Haven’t seen this movie recently? Fix that, STAT! Click the image below for more information.
Now let’s get started!
***Spoilers beyond this point!***
This movie has been called a “drama”, a “crime thriller”, “action” and “comedy”. All these titles fit the bill, but we at Buttered Popcorn would probably lean more toward the “comedy” than “drama”. There are SO many fun moments in this movie, it’s hard to choose! Here are a few of our absolute favorites.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Barry’s super innocent face is SO adorably funny. The scene in the bar when Schafer first makes himself known is almost a blueprint for the way that Barry normally deals with trouble. I’m just gonna smile and pretend I have NO idea what you mean. 😀
“I am not fuckin’ around!” Barry’s second attempt to bring guns to the Contras is HI-LA-RI-OUS! He has already made one attempt at weapons delivery – and was robbed of his boots, sunglasses, and who knows what else. He tries to make his handler in the CIA understand the situation, but Schafer is all about the bottom line, and sends Barry back. Barry comes back with a funny twist on the carrot and a stick – but the carrot is boxes of porn and booze, and he’s got a _real_ stick – a baseball bat. We can’t help but giggle when we watch him land the second time, and the first thing you see is him pick up a sturdy wooden bat – while still greeting the Contras with an almost-friendly sounding “Hola!”.
“Are we runnin’?” After Barry’s first successful job for the “three businessmen” from Medillín, the guys celebrate with drinks, and cheering, fireworks, and a nice bag of money for Barry. But shortly after Barry receives his money, the cops break up the party. Barry hears gunfire, and he jumps and drops his cash. The ensuing scene, where the cartel assure him that there’s nothing to worry about, is SO funny! As we said in our First Impressions post, Barry looks very much like a nervous cat, jumping and crouching, and slinking around trying to get away from the loud noises.
“You never saw me!”. We’re sure you’ll remember this scene from the trailer, but believe us! This scene loses none of its giggle-inducing punch for having been included in the trailer! Barry has just had a harrowing escape from the Border Patrol, and has landed in the backyard of two perplexed kids. In a cloud of cocaine, he stumbles from the plane, gives money to one of the two children and takes his bike. This part is SO FUNNY, and the kids’ faces are just the BEST. Also, we kind of love the fact that Barry just paid about $50,000 or more for a too-small bicycle…
Cool things about this movie:
Barry’s intelligence and resourcefulness:
Barry Seal strikes us as something of a goofball. He plays tricks on the passengers (and his copilot) during his TWA flight, he makes the SUPER INNOCENT “I have no clue what you’re talking about” face when he’s confronted with his own wrongdoing, and he doesn’t realize until his wife points it out, that “IAC” sounds like a made-up company name. Oh, and he doesn’t know where Nicaragua, OR El Salvador are located, even though he is telling us how he flew to Nicaragua at least once a week.
But despite his goofy charm, he’s actually a smart, and very resourceful guy. He doesn’t actually jump immediately into the CIA’s arms – he waits a while to think it over, before giving up his TWA job (in a “bold” manner, as he tells us). He accepts the opportunity to work with the (soon to be) Medillín cartel after he’s turned down for a raise by Schafer. Several pilots have died trying to take off from the short, dangerous runway, but Barry is willing to try. He measures the runway, refuses to take on extra weight despite pressure from his new “business partners” and he even solves their delivery problem for them by declaring that he will not land anywhere with the merchandise, and coming up with a viable and clever alternative.
Barry shows his cleverness in other ways, too. He manages to continue to build his empire, outfoxing the DEA (twice), using government intelligence for his own side-business, and finding creative ways to make his money squeaky clean. It’s a pleasure to watch him work, even though he doesn’t have the same sleek, quick-witted style as Ethan Hunt. He’s got his own special brand of street smarts, and we love it!
The Medillín are so lovable!
This movie manages to make some of the most feared drug criminals in the 20th century seem so darn lovable! They even show pictures, at one point, of the remains of a car that has been blown up, and you can see the lower half of a corpse clearly visible on the screen. And yet, you kind of find yourself rooting for the cartel – or at least, we did. Pablo Escobar, the leader of the cartel, is pretty scary at times, but for the most part, they’re just a bunch of fun loving guys trying to make a dollar. And who can’t identify with that, right?
This is a stroke of genius on the part of the creative team for American Made. Schafer’s interactions with Barry are meant to be a little bit… frightening. His first introduction to Barry is confronting him (with a smile) about the fact that he has been engaging in an illegal activity. He enlists Barry into working for the CIA, full of smiles and friendliness, but there is thinly-veiled menace in the interaction as well. “If anybody found out… that’d be a problem.” “Just don’t get caught. Because that would- HEY GO TRY THE PLANE!” He tries to deflect attention from the seriousness of what he’s asking by enticing Barry with the excitement of breaking out on his own and flying a beautiful, tiny jet instead of a giant air-bus.
Schafer tends to keep the smile on his face, but the veneer begins to crack as time goes on, and he is completely focused on his needs, and the needs of his office, without considering what will happen to Barry if he is forced into certain situations. Meanwhile, Jorge Ochoa – the most friendly and personable member of the cartel – begins his interactions with Barry in a similar way – the thinly veiled menace of being summoned by armed men and driven to an unknown place with no explanation. However, his friendliness feels more genuine than Schafer’s, and after their business relationship begins to thrive, their personal relationship grows, too. You won’t see Barry spending Christmas partying with Schafer, and you won’t see Schafer sending home a plane-load full of gifts for Barry’s kids.
They do such a great job making the cartel likable people that they actually have to give us a concrete reason for Barry to betray them (other than the fact that the DEA will throw him in jail for the rest of his life). Ochoa’s prank when they come with the giant military plane, and he pretends to turn on them, seals his fate (and Barry’s). You could almost believe that Barry wouldn’t turn on his friends, until Ochoa terrifies them. Barry as much as tells them he’s going to turn them in. “You got me. That was a good one. But you know, I’m gonna have to get you back.”
Lucy and Barry’s love is so real!
We love the relationship between Barry and his wife Lucy. It’s easy to see that Barry would do anything for his wife. Hey, he’s willing to take a job with cocaine dealers to make sure she has the same health coverage they had with TWA. But we love the fact that, even though Lucy calls bullshit on Barry multiple times, she will do anything for him, too. Including leave her home in the wee hours of the morning with no more explanation than, “We have to move.”
It’s wonderful when Barry admits to Lucy that he’s working for the CIA. It may go unnoticed, because we don’t get more than her incredulous look, but this scene is the moment when Lucy becomes a full partner in Barry’s life again. Ut’s after Lucy shouts and pummels Barry for abandoning her in the middle of nowhere for hours that Barry realizes he has to come clean or lose his wife. Not long after this, we see Lucy at a Christmas party with the Cartel – she’s fully aware of what’s happening now, and she’s by his side in every way – not just for fun times with Jorge, Carlos and Pablo. She’s there for him when things go south, and she refuses to leave him when it becomes clear that the government has abandoned him to his fate.
Lucy’s distress at the idea of moving back home while Barry faces trouble alone leads to one of the most touching moments in the whole movie, and one of our favorite scenes – Barry explaining that he can’t face going to prison if he doesn’t know Lucy and the kids will be safe. He asks her (as he did years before, when they moved to Mena), “You trust me, right?” Her response is a vehement “_Fuck_ no!” but, unlike the first time he asks, this time Barry has no response. He is at a complete loss, and while he searches for something to say, Lucy throws her arms around him, and he holds her tightly.
Awwwwww! We’re not crying, YOU’RE crying!
- “You gon’ be all right, Jimmy!” (Barry to co-pilot)
- “You trust me. Right?” (Barry to Lucy)
- “That sounds fuckin’ made up, Barry.” (Lucy)
- “I am going to need some more money at some point.” (Barry)
- “A fuckin’ washin’ machine!!” (Lucy)
- “Those Contras were damned excited about being in the US of A.” (Barry)
- “Look at this FUCKIN’ house!” (JB)
- “I don’t know how you handle the pressure, JB.” (Barry)
- “I don’t wanna be fed to no pigs, Barry.” (Pete)
- “Anybody that can make it from that monkey movie all the way to the White House has gotta know what the hell he’s doin’.” (Barry, of Ronald Reagan)
Barry Seal! Of course! Who is surprised? We’ve already talked a lot about why we love Barry Seal, but here’s a list anyway! We like lists!
- He’s clever: he comes up with viable solutions to problems that will keep him out of jail, while getting his employers what they want.
- He’s good at his job: He manages to take off from the difficult runway, he was a good TWA pilot, if a little too playful. ;p
- He’s a good husband: He cares about what Lucy thinks and what she wants and needs most of all. He makes some mistakes, but he’s got her interest at heart the entire time.
- He’s smokin’ HOT: Not gonna lie. A guy who looks a lot like Tom Cruise was running around this movie with longish hair and sideburns, wearing button downs and tight pants. We have found our aesthetic.
Behind the Scenes Trivia:
We did a whole trivia post about this movie, so guess what? We’re not doing this section today! You gon’ be all right, Jimmy!! Oh hey, but did you guys figure out who that guy was who was sitting on the bench next to Barry inside the White House? XD
Here’s a bunch of pics we liked!
Watchability level: HIGH!
Buttered Popcorn recommends you watch this movie! It’s fun, it’s interesting, it evokes all the emotions! This is definitely a great watch!
Re-watchability level: HIGH!
There aren’t any deep twists in this movie, although there are a few surprises. But that doesn’t make this movie any less re-watchable. It is SO MUCH FUN!!! This movie needs to be watched over and over again, it’s just FUN, and as usual, you catch new things every time you watch. And you get to see bunches of close-ups of Tom Cruise. Soooooo cloooooooose.
Final Verdict: American Made is fun and hilarious! Fun and hilarious is good! So! Melt that butter, pop that popcorn, and have yourself a high-flying, action-packed, belly-laugh-inducing good time.