The Big Picture

American Made

Tom Cruise is one of those actors we love despite all the reasons we shouldn’t. Who best, then, could portray real-life daredevil Barry Seal, a self-absorbed TWA pilot turned CIA spy, turned drug smuggler, turned DEA informant during the ’80s, in the newly-released American Made?

In a role that fits him like a glove, Cruise, under the direction of Doug Liman (whom the actor previously worked with for the fine Edge of Tomorrow in 2014), begins a journey in the shoes of the infamous, thrill-seeker airman as he switched sides based on the highest bidder, from working for a commercial airline to becoming an asset to Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, until his luck eventually ran out.


Liman’s latest movie is “a smart, nervy film, a very modern entertainment made with energy, style and fine sense of humor,” “reminiscent of such films as GoodFellas, Blow, and American Hustle in both its stranger-than-fiction true-crime provenance and its caffeinated rise-and-fall epic sweep.” And although the screenplay (penned by Gary Spinelli) is, as the director puts it, “a fun lie based on a true story,” there is, nevertheless, “a thrill in knowing it’s real.”

“In keeping with Seal’s story, American Made never really slows down” owing to a “narrative that gradually comes to terms with the darker side of the American dream.”

A Character Cruise Was Born to Play

With American Made, Tom Cruise “shows how and why he can still dominate the screen when he takes on roles that play to his strengths.” He seems “practically born to play” Seal’s ambivalent character for Liman, “whose trip through his wildest years fully exploits” the actor’s “own fetishes.” Throughout the film, Cruise successfully manages to sell “a pasty who thinks he is a patriot,” presenting him as “a great antihero” by ripping into the role and summoning “a side of himself that he rarely lets his guard down enough to reveal.”

Cruise undeniably “dominates the screen” in American Made, a film that “was tailor-made” for him, here “as compelling as ever with charm to spare.”

Best quotes from the reviews:

“American Made lets a smug Tom Cruise just be Tom Cruise.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Time

“Keeps us amused until gradually, almost imperceptibly, the laughter starts to stick in our throats.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Time

“Cruise should lose control more often.” – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

“Tom Cruise gets his bum out in American Made. Twice, he moons. It’s pristine of course, as you’d expect from a 55-year-old man who can still get away with saying he’s in his thirties.” – Alex Godfrey, Empire