‘Just Say No’ was the anti-drug campaign championed by Nancy Reagan in the 1980’s and was reflective of the bigger issues surrounding the war on drugs that still exists in the United States. The effectiveness of this tagline and the fight against the drug trade are questionable, but both sides of this battle provide some captivating historical characters to study. Within this culture war, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) became a ‘war profiteer’ on a grand scale, because of his multiple dealings with the CIA, the governments of Central America and with the Medellin drug cartel.
Tom Cruise partners with Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman to bring to light the vast web of influence that Seal had throughout the 70s and 80s in the war on drugs. His story begins with the pilot being recruited from TWA by the CIA to fly reconnaissance missions over heavily fortified military installations throughout Central and South America. As Barry developed his reputation with the intelligence community, he also caught the attention of a burgeoning group of illegal business men who wanted to recruit him for his flying abilities.
These men wanted to capitalise on his relationships around Central America, which helped to grow the Medellin drug cartel. Playing all sides of the US, Panamanian and Colombian governments and their legal systems, the resourceful airman was able to develop one of the most intricate systems of drug, weapons and people smuggling in history. Eventually, the various parties involved on both sides of this battle are made aware of how the industrious pilot was profiting and that he needed to be brought to account.
What else can be said about the war on drugs? It has become a subject matter that has not only profited drug dealers, but it has given Hollywood a multitude of storylines to share. The challenge for Liman as the director and writer Gary Spinelli is to find something original to engage audiences that may be numb to the subject matter. With Barry Seal’s life story in their hands, they are given an unbelievable set of circumstances that deliver an interesting combination of humour and tragedy to this ongoing fight for the soul of America.
The seasoned director proves that he has an uncanny ability to tell a familiar story from a fresh perspective by utilising the diary-style format to chronicle Seal’s story. Similar to the skill that the pilot had, to fly at breakneck speeds and get has work done, Liman manages to move through the years quickly without missing key plot points. He sees that Seal’s story is loaded with drama that begs to be told, but Liman’s directorial style lifts this out of the jungle of mundane drug running film.
This also can be said of the cast which help to bring these unique characters to life. Even though he is completely physically different than the heavy-set pilot, Cruise manages to show the vulnerable, charming and haphazard nature of Seal. Proving that he still has the ability to carry a film that is not going to lead to a franchise, he plumbs the depths of the emotional side of this colourful character. Domhnall Gleeson and Sarah Wright provide strong supporting roles to show that the story contained a multitude of contributors to the multi-layered drama. The combination of talent in front of and behind the camera make American Made an entertaining crime drama that provides a different slice of history.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
The discussion points buried within the narrative of Barry Seal’s life are endless, but there is one that should be at the forefront of every husband’s mind: how could he expose his family to this world?
In the consideration of providing for his family, Barry Seal is confronted with the moral dilemma of how far he was willing to go to give his family an enviable lifestyle. The temptations of wealth and status exposed his family to a life of crime and threatened their physical existence. This could lead men to ask where to draw the line.
The only means of drawing a line with your life choices comes down to where your belief system begins. You can trust in the law of the land and strive to not break the legal constraints of society, but earthly laws can change. A better consideration could be looking to God for your standard, because the teachings of the Bible can be found in Word and the life example of Jesus. Check out one of his biographies: Luke
Once the standard has been set, it becomes apparent what a man should do for his family. The example provided by Paul of Tarsus is to let each one of you love his wife as himself and for fathers to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. It is an ongoing process and not easy in this modern world, but this letter from Paul begins to answer the question of a husband and fathers role. One of Paul’s letters: Ephesians.
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