AMERICAN MADE Review — A Real Life Caper With Edge

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American Made ReviewAmerican Made Review — Tom Cruise and Doug Liman are red, white and bruised

by Staci Layne Wilson @StaciWilson

Nobody’s as American made as Tom Cruise – from his portrayal as the apple-pie enterprising teen in Risky Business to his Oscar-winning turn as real-life hero Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July (and many more patriotic performances) – it’s that twinkle in his eye that sells with a smile. His latest big screen bonanza is American Made, where he stars as Barry Seal, a talented but bored airline pilot who turned to illegal activities for kicks and wound up paying a heavy price.

Barry begins with small-time smuggling on the side, but before long, he is recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America. He somehow finds himself involved in one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States. From the cockpit to the cartels, Barry’s bold venture helps spawn Pablo Escobar’s Medellin misadventure and almost brings down the Reagan White House.

While this true story is fascinating, Cruise deserves his due for bringing it all so breathlessly to life. Yes, the Barry we see onscreen is glib and foolhardy at times. But as interpreted by Cruise (donning a Southern drawl), he’s got charm to spare along with the gravitas age brings to anchor this delightfully watchable escapade into some sense of time and place.

While relatively unknown screenwriter Gary Spinelli doesn’t dig too deep beyond the seductive surface of Barry’s money, picture-perfect family and joyous addiction to the rush of being undercover, that’s OK. Not every cautionary tale has to be laden with lessons of doom and gloom. Director Doug Liman’s done so many great popcorn movies – from Swingers, to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, to The Bourne Identity. But beyond pure entertainment, Liman gravitates to star-driven material that’s also got edge.

The movie is shakily shot – a Liman trademark. Even when characters are calmly sitting on the sofa talking, the camera is a 4.7 on the Richter scale. But the aliveness somehow lends itself to the story and it’s not as annoying as usual. The score offers up some familiar Top 40s from the 70s and 80s, but the music is never gimmicky. The cars are cool (Barry favors Caddys) and kitschy (those who survived the era will be given bad flashbacks via the Gremlin hatchback).

American Made does everything it should: it educates and it entertains.

Rated R
1 hour 55 minutes


American Made Review — Tom Cruise and Doug Liman are red, white and bruised

by Staci Layne Wilson @StaciWilson



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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on

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