The story of Barry Seal, an American ace pilot who became a drug-runner for the CIA in the 1980s in a clandestine operation that would be later exposed as the Iran-Contra Affair. The movie, with Tom Cruise, mixes fiction with fact to tell the story of a man who lived his life mainly in the shadows but became involved in one of the biggest political stories of the 80s.

Universal Pictures
2017, BD 50, Rated R, DTS MA 5.1, 1 hour 55 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright
Director: Doug Liman



Violence: Yes
Sex: Yes
Language: Yes


American Made slipped in and out of theaters last September and I hardly noticed it. I’m a little over exposed to Tom Cruise and this story didn’t seem that interesting. Imagine my surprise when I watched this film and it turned out to be a tidy and interesting black comedy with the best Tom Cruise performance I’ve seen in his long career.

The film is ‘based on a true story’ which is usually a clue that the film will careen wildly from the facts. This film does have its share of character filler, but generally, American Made is by all accounts a good characterization of Seal and his interactions with the CIA.

The real Seal never saw a rule he didn’t want to break or bend and we certainly get that from Cruise’s version of the character. The flying sequences are terrific and Cruise, who is a pilot himself, flew many of the scenes with only a cameraman aboard. The film bounces from funny to somber and it’s pretty obvious Seal is not going to come to a good end as he betrays drug lords, organized crime figures, and the CIA itself. American Made intertwines Seal’s story with news clips from the time showing President Reagan and Oliver North fending off questions about our arms sales in the southern hemisphere.

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This is actually a good film, Cruise gives us a character he hasn’t shown us in other films, and the direction by Doug Liman is assured and filled with good visuals with exciting action sequences.


By design, the color palette here is not typical. It’s 1980’s colors, and sometimes ‘grainy on purpose’ look designed to evoke that era, an era defined by some awful music, weird hairstyles, and clothing choices which a modern audience will find quaint at best. The production designer did a great job making this movie look like the 80s, with small details in hotel rooms and offices that don’t betray the films modern origins.

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The soundtrack is a robust DTS 5.1 mix, and the scenes with Cruise flying in South America and eluding American military flights are compelling in their realism.

  • Deleted Scenes
  • American Storytellers
  • Cruise & Liman: A Conversation
  • In the Wings
  • Shooting American Made
  • Flying High
  • The Real Barry Seal