American Made

Oct 4, 2017

It's Cruise's best acting in decades.

American Made

Grade: B

Director: Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow)

Screenplay: Gary Spinelli (Stash House)

Cast: Tom Cruise (Top Gun), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 55 min

by John DeSando

Tom Cruise does the breezy hero better than most other actors working today. In a wholly entertaining American Made, he jauntily plays Bobby Seal, the hotshot TWA pilot who ran drugs for South American cartels and the CIA, became wealthy, and lost it all. Yet, he can be historically associated to the operation known as the Iran-Contra Affair, and in that his legacy can be certain.

American Made is Seal’s story, a frenetic film about a mercurial pilot, whose love of his family competes with his love of fast planes and money. Although the film may make the uncertain life playing between the government and the cartels seem romantic, the guns both running and shooting are all too real to be seductive for your normal theatergoer.

Director Doug Lyman, having directed The Bourne Identity and Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, knows a thing or two about fast pace, intrigue, and the limits of idealism. Here he takes a slower pace to allow Cruise to smile and play the almost clueless jockey who is seduced into high stakes because of money, but more importantly, flying. Offered a new, spiffy, fast plane to carrying around the drugs, and this seemingly good boy goes bad.

Music from the late 70’s and early 80’s such as Hooked on Classics and A Fifth of Beethoven keep American Made rooted in the past as we try to forget Cruise is a man of our times. Intercutting with notables like President and Mrs. Reagan brings home how near Seal was to the heart of things politic.

As he explains in voice over associated with tapes he made recounting his adventures, “I’m the gringo that always delivers.” The same could be said of Cruise, whose youthful swashbuckling has taken him from Top Gun fame to present day success.

To add to the crazy heroic treatment of this character, Cruise himself flies the planes, and in one sequence puts the plane on auto to drop bags from a trap door. He’s listed as in charge of the plane stunts. His fine acting in this robust film is no stunt. It’s real entertainment.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at