American Made

American Made

The makers of the based-on-a-true-story black comedy "American Made" fail to satisfactorily answer one pressing question: why is CIA operative and Colombia drug-runner Barry Seal's story being told as a movie and not a book? What's being shown in this film that couldn't also be expressed in prose? In telling the true story of American airplane pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), writer Gary Spinelli and director Doug Liman ("Edge of Tomorrow," "Jumper") choose to overstimulate viewers rather than challenge them. They emphasize Barry's charm, the exotic nature of his South American trade routes, and the rapid escalation of events that ultimately led to his downfall. Cruise's smile is, in this context, deployed like a weapon in Liman and Spinelli's overwhelming charm offensive. You don't get a lot of psychological insight into Barry's character, or learn why he was so determined to make more money than he could spend, despite conflicting pressures from Pablo Escobar's drug cartel and the American government to either quit or collude.