Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘American Made’ (2017)

Universal Pictures

Like archetypal wing-footed Mercury who zips through the air and Underworld doing the bidding of the gods, pilot Barry Seal, the anti-hero of Doug Liman’s American Made, flies. And, in Mercurial style, there are a lot of deities from whom he takes orders.

Relentlessly and dizzyingly in motion, the movie is so consistently zany – based on an almost impossible-to-keep-straight true story that starts in 1978 – it’s easy to miss the film’s profound archetypal underpinning.

How does this mad narrative begin? Seal, a bored TWA pilot married to Lucy (Sarah Wright) who worries about having enough money to provide for their brood, has such exceptional flight skills that the CIA, whose emissary is “Schafer” (Domhnall Gleeson), comes calling, initially because they’ve found out about his Cuban cigar-smuggling habit.

Schafer, however, has a different endgame: having Seal, with his exceptional piloting skills, swoop low over Latin America to take intelligence-collecting photos of revolutionary soldiers whose mission defies U.S. interests.

Universal Pictures

Having secretly quit his TWA job and now the so-called owner of his own CIA-fronted company, Seal’s still in need of more cash. So, when the Medellin drug cartel makes him a cocaine-trafficking offer with massive payoffs, he simply can’t refuse. Along with flying, he’s now embraced Mercury’s mercantile savvy by gun-running to the Contras in Nicaragua. Mayhem ensues, as those weapons, along with the drugs, get rerouted to other parties.

The reward of Seal’s insanely optimistic can-do and it’ll-all-work-out attitude is, of course, cash, with the closets and rafters of his new house in Arkansas eventually unable to either conceal or contain the exponentially growing number of canvas bags exploding with still unlaundered bills. Ten years in, as luck turns to excess, and the messy flight map of his own life implodes, Seal’s winning streak runs out, and retaliatory events get personal.

A piece of dialog in American Made is “a million dollar door,” which refers to a scheme that solves a massive drug-dropoff problem. But keeping with Mercury’s journeys to the heights of Olympus and the depths of Hades, a door is an entry point that warrants reflection.

Roundtrip tickets to hell, even for Mercurial stand-in Seal, often become one-way escapades, where flights through the sky as designated messenger become flights from those you betrayed.

Archetype: Flight.

Astrology Archetype: ☿ (Mercury)


Facebook Twitter Email