American Made Review

American Made movie posterSynopsis
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an American airline pilot, is approached by a CIA agent named Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who offers him a job taking covert pictures of insurgent operations in Central America for the US government. Seal is soon approached by Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) and his crew and is recruited into smuggling drugs into the US.

I’ll admit, the only reason I really went to see American Made was because of Tom Cruise. Biopics aren’t normally my type of film and there haven’t been very many that I have greatly enjoyed. However, I was hoping that with Cruise at the forefront, this might actually be a biopic that I’d like. While it does contain several of the aspects of the genre I don’t care for, there was plenty more to enjoy than other biopics.

As I thought would be the case, Cruise’s charisma is one of the driving forces of the film. He plays Barry Seal in such a way that you like him, even though you know he is a terrible person and that you should detest him. It creates a very interesting experience. With Cruise’s infectious grin, you’ll be rooting for Seal all along the way.

Another actor who I thought did a great job was Domhnall Gleeson as the CIA operative Schafer. He was just as charismatic as Cruise except we don’t get much information about him. I supposed this works out alright because since he is CIA, this helps to build that air of mystery about him. I just wish I was able to see more of him and Cruise together because they both had an energy about them that was fun to watch.

The subject matter of American Made is actually pretty dark but you might have a hard time seeing that with the way it is presented. I’m sure part of it comes from Cruise’s charisma I brought up earlier but there is a lightheartedness to the film that was unexpected in a movie about a drug dealer. I think its unique tone made it more enjoyable for me because there are plenty of movies about criminals and drug dealers that are very grim and to see one that wasn’t was a breath of fresh air.

In the film Inside Man, the movie sporadically jumps into the future with interviews with the hostages to set up the upcoming scene. This film makes use of a similar technique. Throughout American Made, commentaries about what Seal was thinking and doing are interjected between scenes to prepare the audience for the scene ahead. I thought Inside Man should have made more use of this approach to telling its story, whereas here I think it is used the right amount. It never takes away from the experience too much and gives the audience a better insight into Seal’s character. Since this is a movie about Seal, it only helps better our understanding of him.

I thought American Made was GOOD πŸ™‚ Most biopics have a hard time keeping my attention it seems but I didn’t have that feeling during this movie. The lighthearted nature of such a dark movie and the energy from Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson makes it enjoyable. While I don’t think I will go out of my way to see it, I won’t shy away either if I happen to come across it.


Cast & Crew
Doug Liman – Director
Gary Spinelli – Writer
Christophe Beck – Composer

Tom Cruise – Barry Seal
Domhnall Gleeson – Monty ‘Schafer’
Sarah Wright – Lucy Seal
Caleb Landry Jones – JB
Mauricio Mejia – Pablo Escobar
Alejandro Edda – Jorge Ochoa
Fredy Yate Escobar – Carlos Ledher
Jesse Plemons – Sheriff Downing
Jayma Mays – Dana Sibota
Benito Martinez – James Rangel
E. Roger Mitchell – Agent Craig McCall
Jed Rees – Louis Finkle
Robert Farrior – Oliver North
Alberto Ospino – Manuel Noriega
Daniel Lugo – Adolfo Calero
Jayson Warner Smith – Bill Cooper (Snowbird #1)
Mark McCullogh – Pete (Snowbird #2)

Dredd Review

Dredd Movie PosterSynopsis
In the future, America is a wasteland and the Human race lives in Mega-City One, a large metropolis spanning along the East Coast from Boston to Washington DC, where violence is rampant. β€œJudges” are tasked with maintaining order in the chaos as judge, jury, and executioner. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) take on Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her drug operation in the Peach Trees mega-block.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the character of Judge Dredd, he appears the British comic book 2000 AD. The first Judge Dredd story appeared in 1977, and since then has developed a rich mythology. Dredd doesn’t try to incorporate much of its source material. Instead, it focuses on the titular character, giving us a brief, but satisfying, glimpse into the dystopian world of Mega-City One.

The plot is simple: Judges Dredd and Anderson are trapped in Peach Trees and must ascend to the top of the building to get to Ma-Ma and lift the lockdown. It really is that straightforward. This simplicity is very beneficial because it allows the narrative to breath and not get bog down by twists or too many details. Instead, the movie focuses on the relationship between Dredd and Anderson, as well as the action and violence (you know, the important stuff).

The thing that stands out the most in this film are the special effects. Slow-motion, coupled with the other CGI effects, make Dredd look absolutely gorgeous (maybe not the most flattering way to describe a gritty movie, but hey, whatever). Several scenes were shot at 4000 frames per second, so you can see pretty much every detail. I don’t have a 3D blu-ray player, nor did I see it in 3D when it was in theaters, but I can only imagine how much that may have actually added to the experience.

Dredd carries an R rating, and takes full advantage of it. The violence can get pretty brutal and has Tarantino-amounts of blood at times. It’s actually comical how much blood is flying around; there were several moments I laughed at the amount of gore. But for some reason, when this satirical violence is combined with the slow-motion, it become something quite elegant. Understanding the violence of the source material and embracing that comic book nature of it really helps this movie from becoming overly serious.

Initially, Urban didn’t strike me as a good fit to play the character of Judge Dredd since it is much grittier than the other roles I have seen him play. But I must say I am pleasantly surprised how well he made the character work. Most of his face is obscured by a helmet, so Urban had to use his mouth to convey any kind of emotion, granted there wasn’t much to convey. He uses a hoarse voice, similar to Christian Bale’s Batman, that really establishes the experience and hard history of the character.

It’s too bad Dredd didn’t do well in theaters because it offered a great introduction into a world that is ripe for exploring. The initial outing focused on Dredd, Anderson, and their relationship. A sequel could expand the mythos around the Hall of Justice, mutants, and the rest of Mega-City One in general. The stories are there, it’s just a matter of whether or not Lionsgate will make a sequel. I hope they do, and I know others do too given the Dredd sequel campaign.

Dredd is has become a cult hit and I think it really needs a sequel (or two). The simple plot allows for a tight focus on the major characters. Although the violence is over-the-top, when it’s combined with the slow-motion effects, they become hypnotically beautiful sequences. I really hope its cult status gets noticed by the people that can make a follow-up film happen, because I don’t think there are many movies that I actively hope for a sequel for more than Dredd.