Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review of AMERICAN MADE: Cruising with the CIA

September 14, 2017

This is one of the rare times I am seeing Tom Cruise with a smile on his face on a movie poster. The last time I remember he was smiling on a movie poster was "Jerry Maguire" and that was way back 1996! Even if I did not exactly know what this movie was about, I thought it would be interesting to see Tom Cruise in a happy, light-hearted role again. 

It was 1978 and Barry Seal was an outstanding pilot for TWA. Agent Monty Schafer convinces Seal to junk his stable job and work for the CIA. From taking overhead recon photos of terrain, Seal took on more dangerous CIA missions, like covert meetings with General Noriega in Panama and supplying arms to the Contras in Nicaragua. 

During these missions, Seal was also conscripted by the Medellin drug cartel composed of Ochoa, Rangel and Escobar to smuggle drugs into the USA. Because of these highly profitable but blatantly illegal activities, cash was literally bursting out of the seams of his house, hangar and banks in Mena, Arkansas. 

It was very good to see Tom Cruise as a hotshot pilot again, long after he took the skies 30 years ago in "Top Gun" (1986). He did his own flying and his own stunts in this new film as well. This was best seen in that hair-raising scene in his small airplane on auto-pilot while flying low over some Louisiana marshes, and Cruise was at the back throwing down packages of drugs leaving the cockpit totally empty.

In fact, it was great to see him in a role where he was totally relaxed and having fun again, unlike his intense grim personas in "Mission: Impossible" and "Jack Reacher". Cruise looked and felt like he was having the time of his life, flashing his famous toothy smile almost the whole 115 minute running time. I am sure Cruise's winning performance here wipes off any bad taste left by his "Mummy" reboot earlier this year.

Willowy Sarah Wright played Seal's wife Lucy Seal, a former fast food waitress. We get a hint of her redneck background when we meet her extremely trashy brother JB (annoyingly played by the pale and freckly Caleb Landry Jones), though she seemed to have outgrown it quite well. Domhnall Gleeson was rather unconvincing as Seal's CIA contact Monty Schafer, but understandable in the light of this film\s humorous attack on the subject.

The story of drug courier/gun-runner Barry Seal was dead serious, but the treatment of the film by director Doug Liman was light and breezy. Liman, whose previous box office hits were "The Bourne Identity" (2002), "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (2005) and "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014, also with Cruise), has once again proven his ability to tell an entertaining story. 

While it may feel a bit long towards the third act, my attention was held to the end. I found it is quite educational about the controversies during the Reagan years in recent American history. I have heard of Manuel Noriega, Sandanistas and Contras, Lt. Col. Oliver North, the Iran-Contra affair in my youth, but I confess that I did not really much about these foreign issues. Watching this film cleared up a lot of the historical connections of these entities. It sparked my interest to read more about what really went on in these unbelievable (yet true) events depicted in the movie. 8/10. 


  1. people from back home were fans of Tom Cruise. i bet it would be really nostalgic for them to watch this. I just know he's a really good actor since long ago. hope i get to watch this too. :)

  2. I saw the video trailer of this movie. I actually find it interesting. They set the time and setting of the film looks retro. I'm curious if they made it good as old.

  3. I am normally not a fan of anything Tom Cruise is in but this one looks intriguing. I think I will go and see it. Shell

  4. Woohoo, glad to see the 8/10 from you on this one! I haven't seen a Tom Cruise movie in ages and would be highly interested in this one for sure! My husband loves the action films, so it's good this one caught your attention the entire time.

  5. That's totally a movie that my husband would love! CIA, Pilot, Undercover operations plus that you've rated it 8/10, this is totally perfect. I'm gonna recommend this to him.

  6. I am not a fan of Tom Cruise movie. But this one seems to be so intriguing and interesting. Will check this movie trailer later.