Charting the life of a pilot who equaled his big ambitions with his skills behind the plane’s yoke, the 2017 action–comedy film ‘American Made’ builds upon the real life of Barry Seal and brings an enthralling story to the screen. Still, the film isn’t a true biographical account. As a result, it relies on fictional storylines and events to mold the overall narrative to its liking. Consequently, Barry Seal’s life as a drug smuggler turned DEA informant that the film presents, through Tom Cruise’s character, remains an altered version of reality with equal parts truth and fiction behind it.
This blend of fact and fiction brings a number of inquiries about the true story of Barry Seal’s life and how it compares to its on-screen depiction in ‘American Made.’ One such instance stems from the vital plotline about Barry’s brother-in-law, JB, whose presence significantly affects the Seal family and Barry’s working relationships. As such, if you want to know about JB’s basis in reality, here is everything you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Who is JB?
No, JB is not based on a real person. JB’s introduction into the plot arrives almost halfway through the story when Barry’s illegal dealings with the Cartel have firmly cemented his family in a lucrative life. The narrative establishes Lucy’s brother’s troublemaking ways right away through his unruly personality and mentions of prior criminal records. Therefore, the young man moved in with his sister in Mena, Arkansas, as a fresh start to begin his life anew.
In line with the same, Lucy encourages JB to find a job to get his act together. Although the man does as he’s told, his place of employment, Barry’s airport, ends up being his undoing. At this point in the story, Barry has accumulated so much wealth that he’s keeping bags of it hidden in his backyard after running out of shelf space in his local bank. Consequently, the pilot’s hangar is predictably stuffed with hidden cash that JB happens upon.
Thus, by recklessly spending cash JB can’t account for, Barry’s brother-in-law ends up on the wrong side of the law yet again. Since JB is Barry’s family, he tries to help the young man out despite his perpetually ungrateful disposition by helping him flee the state and go into hiding. However, the interruption posed by this situation to Jorge Ochoa and his cartel’s business does not sit well with the drug lord.
As a result, the Medellín Cartel plants a bomb in JB’s car, which ends up killing the man. While this storyline seamlessly conveys the dangers of Barry’s job, where even his friends turn out to be his foes, it is an entirely fabricated addition to the real life of Barry Seal. There are no records of Barry Seal having a brother-in-law who stole from him and became a target for the Cartel due to his reckless interference.
Therefore, JB’s character and the complications he brings into Barry’s life are all works of fiction imagined by Gary Spinelli, the ‘American Made’ screenwriter, and the director Doug Liman. Since the latter has reportedly defined his film as “a fun lie based on a true story,” JB’s character can be interpreted as one such fun lie employed to bring depth to the film’s narrative.
JB’s influence over the narrative significantly informs Barry’s own character as it showcases the amount of caution and care that Barry had to utilize in order to benefit from his illegal businesses. Furthermore, his brother-in-law’s ultimate doom marks the first time the Seal family experiences actual danger as a result of Barry’s ambition. This danger is eventually mirrored in the protagonist’s own demise when he’s put on guard after upsetting the Cartel and appoints the regular habit of checking his car before driving.
Ultimately, JB’s character was a great tool for the film’s narrative to highlight certain aspects of Barry’s life. Nevertheless, the man himself is not based on the real-life Barry Seal’s brother-in-law and is an entirely fabricated character confined to fiction.
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