Say what you want about the man, Tom Cruise movies usually meet the half-way decent mark of quality entertainment. They always have a few problems, but rarely do those problems ruin the rest of the movie. The most recent Mission Impossible film suffered from the usual complete lack of romance, but otherwise represents a solid entry in the spy-thriller genre. Which makes his most recent film, American Made, all the more disappointing.
The whole point of the movie is to show that Ronald Reagan was simultaneously a bumbling incompetent that couldn’t control his administration and a master conniver and deceiver responsible for America’s convoluted attempts at international real-politik in the 1980s. That was the point of the film. The plot revolves around a bored pilot who eagerly signs on with the CIA, at first to conduct low-altitude fly-bys of Central American military camps. When the pay proves to be insufficient to warrant the risk, the pilot – Tom Cruise’s character is so bland I can’t remember his name and will only refer to him as “the pilot” – starts to run drugs for the nascent Medellin cartel. Busted in short order, the pilot turns his operation over to the CIA, things spiral out of control, and before the end everyone betrays Tom Cruise, and as the middle-man, he’s the guy that takes the fall*.
That’s an interesting premise, hampered by a number of factors, chief of which is the movie’s sheer schizophrenic nature. It can’t decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a tragedy. It can’t decide whether the real bad guy is a rogue CIA analyst, the cartel bosses, or Ronald Reagan. It can’t decide whether the drug enforcement agencies are bumbling fools or ruthless villains themselves. What’s left is a film that can’t decide what it is, and that translates on screen to a rootless story in which the viewer has no idea who to root for, what to hope for, or why to invest any emotion into the tale.
Take a look at the pilot’s character. The closest thing we get for a reason to root for him is a moment where he turns down easy sex in a city far from his wife. Throughout the film we see that he is loyal to his family – to his wife and kids anyway – and that helps, but that’s trivial. It’s easy to be loyal to your own children. As viewers, we need more than that. To complicate matters, the film spends more time showing that the pilot has no qualms about acting like a dick to a planeload of passengers just for a cheap laugh at their expense than it does showing his one positive trait. That’s not how you engage an audience, that’s how you get them to tune out.
Likewise, the film’s constant intercuts to shots of Ronald Reagan, particularly late in the film, serve as jarring interruptions in the flow of the story. Things for the pilot heat up as the film progresses and he finds himself caught between a multitude of factions, fighting to hold together an ad-hoc organization built to serve two masters. Into that struggle, the film-makers just can’t resist pausing the action on a regular basis to remind the viewer that this is all Reagan’s fault. Hey kids, remember when Reagan fought drugs while his administration did all these things?
That might make for a fine movie in its own right, but it seriously undercuts the impact of scenes that explicitly show the CIA operating as an independent agency. From the film’s perspective, the scenes of the CIA covering their own tracks so as to implement plans that go against the stated goals of the Administration, lifts the burden from the main CIA antagonist. In fact, by showing this aspect of the unaccountability of the mandarins operating out of Rome on the Potomac, this film winds up serving as more of an owl goal for the globalists. Particularly so given that the release of American Made coincides with a litany of revelations that the FBI, CIA, and the State Department, all operate independently of the man in the Oval Office. Made In America provides a classic example of what can happen when the bureaucracy grows too large and unwieldy, and makes as strong a case as any for the drastic reduction of state power, if only to make the wielding of that power more manageable – and by extension to make it easier to hold the man who wields that power more manageable.
Bear in mind, the “show the facts, let the viewer decide” is a valid approach to storytelling, and one that can work well, but that is not what happens in American Made. The film clearly sides with the murderous communist regimes in Central America, painting them as sacred defenders of the people they brutalize while painting American involvement as the source of all woes. Somehow, the film wants the viewer to sympathize with Tome Cruise’s pilot, despite the fact that he is working against the heroic and noble blood-soaked regimes that the film takes pains to respect. The result is a cognitive dissonance in the film that distracts more than it entertains.
“Why am I watching this?” Is not a question that a film-maker should want a viewer asking himself mid-movie, but it is a question that crops up over and over again while watching American Made. Aside from a few quick laughs and a train-wreck look at the collapse of a criminal Deep State enterprise, there’s really no good answer to that question. Do yourself a favor and don’t put yourself in the position to have to ask it of yourself.
*Yes, I spoiled it for you. You’re welcome.