Thank the movie gods for a good Tom Cruise movie. He has done so many movies lately making them all about quantity over quality. But AMERICAN MADE is getting a lot of praise and it’s a movie I have to see ASAP. Kernel John made this screening last week while I coughed up chunks of lung and he appears to be on the list of praisers. Tom is on the big screen now at mostly all cinemas in Australia from Universal Pictures Australia. AMERICAN MADE is rated MA15+ and runs for 115mins. Get out there and see it……all the best…..Salty.


Tom Cruise feels the need, the need, for speed! Well not speed actually, more cocaine. Director Doug Liman (EDGE OF TOMORROW) joins forces with Cruise once more in the highly entertaining satire, AMERICAN MADE.


American Made Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Cruise image
Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Cruise



Set from the late 1970’s to the mid 80’s, bored TWA pilot Barry Seal (Cruise) is approached by CIA operative Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson – THE REVENANT) and offered the chance to do a little spying on the sly for Uncle Sam. In their ongoing struggles against those red commie bastards, the spooks need some reconnaissance images taken of installations and troop movements south of democracy, as it were. As much of an agitator as he is, Seal is actually an exceptional pilot; who better to run the gauntlet of anti-aircraft emplacements and take some happy snaps from incredibly low altitudes?

As time goes on, Schafer tasks Seal with more duties, starting with being an intelligence courier, to a gun runner to arm local militia’s against the communists, to outright people smuggling to bring freedom fighter troops into the States so they can receive detailed military training. Throughout these journeys, Seal comes in contact with the leaders of the Colombian Medellin Cartel, namely Jorge Vasquez and Pablo Escobar, who offer him tremendous sums of money to smuggle their cocaine into America.

Before long, CIA guns are being siphoned off to cartel members, drugs are being smuggled to freedom fighters, situations are spinning well out of control, and Seal is making such an obscene amount of money on the side that the tiny, roughly 2000 population town he is living in has to open several additional banks to house all of his cash. How long can this crazy run of events possibly last?


American Made Tom Cruise image
Tom Cruise



As usual, Cruise brings his recognisable talent to AMERICAN MADE. Always involved and always on point, Cruise fills the role of Seal with the perfect balance of brash troublemaker, attentive family man, and right-place-right-time dumb luck mentality. Of further note are Seal’s flight scenes, where Cruise himself was actually flying the plane. These added a further layer of connection with the audience, allowing for fantastic moments that would have otherwise been lessened by restrictive camera angles brought on by the need to hide the face of the stunt pilot. Instead, we get a wonderfully immersive film with a constant Cruise at its centre. Gleeson and the other supporting cast are equally as solid in their performance, though sadly no one but Cruise really gets much screen time or character development, leaving everyone else a little two dimensional.


Liman’s direction is beautiful. AMERICAN MADE pops off the screen with vibrant colours and engaging visuals. Backgrounds and settings are wonderfully set to enhance the scene playing out, though the film never feels crowded or confused. The movie’s storyline and pacing are engaging and perfectly timed, flowing from twist to turn with enough intrigue to keep audience members hooked. There is also a lovely amount of comedy present, though it is a humour that stems from situations in the film itself, rather than slapstick dialogue or shoehorned one liners, which was very refreshing.


American Made Tom Cruise image
Tom Cruise



For all the praise I can lay at this movie’s celluloid feet, there was no real narrative to get behind. As entertaining as the plot may have been, all we were really doing in the end was following the story of one man’s “ordinary” life. Not ordinary in the sense of normal or unremarkable mind you, but the film portrays Seal’s life in a stable and plain way. Well, as plain as a gun running, drug trafficking, people smuggling, intelligence gathering, secret undercover triple agent could be. But that is exactly my point!  I was expecting to feel so much more for this character than what I did, that it was a disappointment to be so unmoved by Seal’s tale.

This is because on a fundamental level, nothing really happens to Seal. Sure, he gets shot at a few times and crashes a plane once, but the biggest complication this film can seem to throw at him, right up until the last possible moment, is what to do with the ridiculous amount of money he is making, which given everything else that was going on to create potential drama, felt quite weak.

As I mentioned earlier, it was also a little disappointing that the supporting characters, including Seal’s wife, were all relegated to such a background role.  Towards the end of the movie, when the CIA begins to cut ties, Seal calls out to Schafer for assistance, who in turn replies, “who the hell is Schafer?” I had to agree, as not enough was done to really endear myself to Gleeson’s character, let alone that of any of the others.


American Made Tom Cruise and Sarah Right image
Tom Cruise and Sarah Right



Glorifying the decadent and hedonistic lifestyle of the criminal elite is always a tricky proposition. It is hard to remember that these people are actually terribly destructive to the fabric of society, when the champagne and brief cases full of money are splashing across the screen. Portraying this through the lens of satire as AMERICAN MADE did, is certainly one way to go, though films of far greater calibre, such as THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, did it much better.

That said, the movie is quite enjoyable and an easy one to munch popcorn through, though I doubt much of it will stick with me in a week’s time. Entertaining does not equate to memorable in this case. After all, we can each appreciate an easy film on a quite night, and if Cruise is your cup of tea, then AMERICAN MADE will be right up your alley.





A lifelong lover of the silver screen, Kernel John strives to engage and entertain his audience through the shameless use of humour in his reviews, even when it probably isn’t warranted. When not musing for Salty, you can often find John bouncing between his extreme states of either puppy watching down by the beach, or reflecting on the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


Privacy Preference Center