September 29, 2017

R: September 29th, 2017 | R: 115 minutes | R: R

Tom Cruise is back in his element as he takes on the role of Barry Seal, a charismatic man who gets caught in a greed triangle due to his talents as a pilot. Set in the late 1970s until the mid-1980s, American Made follows Seal’s life as he traded in his plain life as a pilot for TWA to working covertly for the CIA to smuggling drugs for the Medellin cartel. What happens when Tom Cruise puts down his running shoes and runs an expanding illegal business instead?

Even though this movie can be put under the crime drama genre it can also be considered a comedy. Tom Cruise as always brings a unique charm to the movie as well as the writers that transforms Barry Seal from being a drug smuggler to a guy that sees an opportunity (however illegal) to reach the American dream. In fact in some places it’s almost difficult to believe that Seal got away with all he did for so long and my suspicion of just how true things were was deepened because of all the jokes and humor included.

The story is told as a voiceover guides viewers as to what was going on in Seal’s life to match with the exterior events going on in America. It helps to keep up with the fact that the film is indeed based on a true story despite the unusual way his life is shared via comedy instead of a more serious tone. I was thankful that the years of all the events with pop up on the screen as the story moved along.

One thing that I did not like about this movie is that it felt like it stayed at surface level. It was eventful but uneventful at the same time. I expected a little more in depth of Barry Seal’s life other than he accrued a lot of money making deals with both the CIA and Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. The events that were shown felt like they were put there more for laughs instead of history which was not bad per se but I was not expecting it.

That is not to deter you from watching but just keep in mind that this movie feels similar to watching Forrest Gump in some part even though it is based on a true story. It is worth checking out however plus Tom Cruise moons viewers during several scenes and it was interesting seeing how Seal’s life turned from ordinary to something to be written in history books.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Ashley Ashley (Senior Contributor) is an Orlando native who loves watching movies. Her favorite genres include comedies, thrillers and sci-fi.
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“American Made” is the story of Barry Seal (Played by Tom Cruise), A pilot for TWA. When he is offered a great sum of money by the CIA, to deliver weapons to Central America he immediately takes it. Barry eventually finds himself in one of the biggest CIA operations in Reagan's presidency. While also being so consumed with money, he makes stops in South America to deliver cocaine to Miami.

So “American Made” is directed by Doug Liman (Who previously directed “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”). And while I was very excited for this film, I ended up being very disappointed with this mess. But to focus on the positives, this film has a mix of “War Dogs” and “Wolf of Wall Street” style tone. And it tells a very good and interesting story. And acting wise Tom Cruise (Previously seen in “Mission: Impossible” and “Top Gun”) did a great job playing a unique character, given so much opportunity for money and being consumed by it. He takes every shot he gets. And Barry’s wife Lucy played by Sarah Wright (Previously seen in “21 & Over” and “Walk of Shame”) did a great job playing a very scared and shocked wife. With all of that, what could possibly go wrong?

So the tone is where this movie messed up. It does not mesh with the plot at all and ended up in a disappointing, sloppy mess. The way it is edited is very quick paced, too fast paced for all the information being presented in the film. There are also a few animation sequences and a really cool opening title sequence, but not for the story that Liman was trying to tell. The color grading was also very vibrant and did not fit the plot, it seemed to be edited like a comedy...Speaking of comedy this film, is way too funny for what they aiming for. There are also quite a few characters who are thrown in for thirty minutes, but then disappear and never come back. To sum all of that up, there is so much information and different vibes being thrown at the audience and it honestly just ended up being a mess.

Overall I really did not care for this film that much. It had a lot going for it, especially with such great performances, and a very good plot that has not been told before. But this movie has so much going on,it just overwhelms the audience and tone is just horrible for this film. I understand that I am not on the same side as most critics, but I really disliked this film and can not recommend it to many.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Cabell Cabell (Contributor) is a filmmaker from Tampa, Florida. He will watch just about any film but when he's not reviewing the latest hits he spends time directing films of his own.
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Doug Liman tells a playful, charismatic, and volatile story that is too charming for its own good. Based on a true story about Barry Seal, a pilot turned drug smuggler who loves to break all the rules, Tom Cruise delivers in one of his most lively roles yet. He carries the film from beginning to end, showing off and using his iconic grin to lure audiences into his side. Whenever Cruise sports a pair of aviators, rough 70s and 80s hairdos, and a loose Southern accent, you know you're in for a good time.

But when things start getting messy for Seal, AMERICAN MADE develops a grim morality issue. We quickly discover that neither Seal nor his bosses (the CIA, the DEA, Ronald Reagan, and the Medellin Cartel) are worth rooting for. There is no line between hero and villain because it turns out they're all vile, greedy scumbags. With no lesson to be learned, the ignorant violence feels redundant. Liman plays it out like a fun, family-like comedy, but the lack of a deeper theme, a satirical message through the shockingly exploitative imagery (a la WOLF OF WALL STREET), keeps this film at an unenjoyable and repetitive ceiling.

There is no doubt that Barry Seal's life is an interesting one, and Liman effectively mines all the intricacies of just how dangerous these years were for him. AMERICAN MADE is a risky movie that puts Tom Cruise at the center of a shakingly-made house of cards. The thrill is in feeling it can collapse with the slightest breeze, and the payoff when things finally get windy.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Gerardo Gerardo (Contributor) is a film student living in Philadelphia. He usually prefers independent and classic films, but he will watch anything in theaters.
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This movie is about a pilot, Tom Cruise, who is recruited by an organization claiming to work with the CIA. They want him to take pictures of the "commies" in South America - this movie takes place in the 70's-80's during the Cold War. He ends up befriending drug dealers in Columbia and becomes a smuggler, smuggling drugs, guns, you name it. He starts laundering money and basically doing tons of illegal shit.

I learned a lot from watching this movie although I don't know how much of it was true. I liked the outfits and the sets, I'm a sucker for anything from the 80's.
I thought the plot fell short at times and I found myself saying "yeah right, that would never happen" quite often throughout the movie.

This kind of reminded me Lord of War - if you liked that movie, this is a more light hearted film.

Rating: 3 out of 5

AshleyK Ashley K. (Contributor) is a frequent traveler currently living in San Diego. She's a super nerd who enjoys all kinds of movies and doesn't always think the book was better.
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The last time I saw Tom Cruise in a movie and enjoyed his presence more than resenting it was War of the Worlds. Because this is a film review and not a Tom Cruise think piece, I'll spare you my personal thoughts and feelings about the guy.

In the 1970s, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) was a pilot for commercial airline TWA. Making your average day trips here and there, it would come as quite a surprise when he would be approached by a CIA agent going by Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson). Shafer recruited Barry to run furtive patrol missions in a small plane with cameras installed, taking photos of operative camps while being shot at.

Unable to tell his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), about his new gig, Barry has to maintain the appearance that he's still shuttling passengers to places like Bakersfield several times a day.

This would become far more difficult when Shafer tells Barry he'll now be a courier, running guns to Panama. On one of these trips, the Medellin Cartel picks him up while he's on the ground trying to fuel up. There, he'd team up with the most notorious Columbian Drug Lord of all time, Pablo Escobar (Mauicio Mejia), to fly cocaine into the United States.

For every two kilos, Barry would be paid handsomely in the form of duffel bags full of what I assume were non-sequential bills. While the CIA would basically ignore Seal's drug smuggling, the DEA would not. To avoid being found out, Barry picks up his family and moves to a small town called Mena, Arkansas.

Lucy, livid at the fact that she had to pick up and move in the middle of the night to escape a raid, learns of Barry's new occupation and becomes less and less angry watching him throw rubber-banded stacks of cash around the kitchen where appliances should be. Missing refrigerator? Money. Need a washer? Money. Still mad at me? Money.

Bringing in cash, as he puts it, "faster than he could launder it," Barry is given new tasks from Shafer. He's asked to run guns to the Contras -- US funded, rightist rebel groups -- and even bring them into the United States for training.

Most of them ran as soon as they hit American soil, though.

Everything would soon come crashing down for Barry when he's caught and arrested. The CIA would halt their ongoing projects with him and when it looked like he'd be going away for a very long time, he would unexpectedly be invited to the White House. He would strike up a deal with them to bring the cartel down. In return, they wouldn't throw him in prison for the rest of his life.

I truly enjoy biographical films like this one. I'll be honest and say that I wasn't looking forward to watching Mr. Scientology -- sorry, I know I said I wouldn't -- run around for two hours. I'm very pleased -- and a little mad at myself -- to say that I dug this movie quite a bit.

Cruise shows a side of himself in this movie that is aloof and uncharacteristically goofy and it works out massively in his favor. Sarah Wright was the perfect choice for his other half, as well. She's no-nonsense and -- while she doesn't have much to work with other than the role of wife and mother -- holds her own on-screen beside him.

All in all, I was impressed by how pleased I was leaving the theater. It's a fascinating story and Doug Liman -- who is no stranger to high-octane action flicks and is basically Jason Bourne's dad -- does an excellent job telling it. I can't believe I'm saying this, but if you're stuck for what to see this weekend, check out American Made. It's actually really good, and you can quote me on that.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Katie Katie (Contributor) is a cinephile and Chicago native who has been reviewing film for nearly a decade. Her heroes include Roger Ebert and Jay Sherman -- it stinks!
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