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American Made Review

By Matthew Passantino

A 'Made' Man

Tom Cruise is one of those megastars who has reached such great heights in their career, it's hard to see anything but their persona on screen rather than an actor performing. Between the "Mission Impossible" franchise and the "Jack Reacher" movies, among countless others, we expect to see Cruise doing his open-palm running and saving the day. We are so used to this, in fact, we forget he once could act.

In Doug Liman's "American Made," Cruise is able to do everything that has made him who he is today and, as a result, delivers one of his more engaging performances in sometime. With his cocky persona and full-watt smile intact, Cruise is able to develop a character and bring him through an arc in this overly familiar but modestly engaging true story.


Cruise stars as commercial pilot Barry Seal. When we first meet him he is flying around North America with TWA, mundanely greeting his passengers at their destination. Barry is a good pilot and seems to like what he does but it doesn't stop him from illegally smuggling cigars on his flights back to the Unite States.

CIA agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) is on to what Barry has been doing on his flights and offers him a chance to make a little extra money taking photos for the CIA by flying over Central American countries. Barry accepts the offer but still isn't making enough money to support his wife (Sarah Wright) and their growing family.

His work for the CIA captures the attention of the Medellin Cartel, just before Pablo Escobar became the infamous criminal he is known as. They recruit Barry to smuggle kilos of cocaine and offer him a ridiculous amount of money for his services. Barry accepts this risky job without much hesitation.

"American Made" takes a number of liberties as it charts the rise of Barry's illegal career and his accumulation of more money than he knows how to manage in familiar ways.  The movie's storytelling and structure are nothing new but Liman does his best to keep us engaged in what's next for Barry and what outlandish scenarios await him. He and cinematographer César Charlone shoot the movie with a retro tint, which helps to give everything its sense of place and time.

To its fault, "American Made" seems to be a bit too short at just under two hours (something you very rarely hear me say). It quickly rushes the first act while taking its time in the later portion of the film. The movie's pacing feels uneven and doesn't fully take the time to explore the effects of Barry's actions on the world he has created around him.

Even so, the movie is engaging because it finally finds an avenue for Cruise's star power and his ability to develop a character and have a great time doing so. If any good comes out of "American Made," hopefully it's more roles like this for him and no more "Mummy" movies.

What did you think?

Movie title American Made
Release year 2017
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary In this modestly engaging true story Tom Cruise channels his familiar cocky persona and megawatt smile into one of his more engaging performances of late.
View all articles by Matthew Passantino
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