Today’s Prayer Focus
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American Made

also known as “Barry Seal: Sólo en América,” “Baris Sylas: Amerikos sukcius,” “Barry Seal - Una storia americana,” See more »
MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan

Moral Rating: Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Action Crime “Biography” Dark-Comedy
Length: 1 hr. 55 min.
Year of Release: 2017
USA Release: September 29, 2017 (wide—3,024 theaters)
DVD: January 2, 2018
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Relevant Issues
Barry Seal
The real Adler Berriman “Barry” Seal—Pablo Escobar called him “El Gordo”—the fat man. Seal was a bad guy with 3 marriages and a huge responsibility for the horrific cocaine epidemic in America—he was an American drug lord. He joined forces with the infamous Medellín Cartel, transporting drugs into his personal airbase in Arkansas—during the Governship of Bill Clinton. Seal was integral to the Cartel’s huge, evil success in the U.S. that destroyed so many lives for profit. Pablo Escobar alone “brought in an estimated $420-million a week,” becoming one of the world’s richest men—while simultaneously helping make his own country the murder capital of the world.
Grave marker of Adler Berriman Seal—July 16, 1939-February 19, 1986
His grave marker. Seal died in Baton Rouge on February 19, 1986 (age 46)—assassinated in his car with a Mac-10 machine gun by the Columbian Medellin Cartel.

the wages of sin is death… —Romans 6:23

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How much of the film is TRUTH? Was Barry Seal really just amusingly eccentric—a good-hearted larrikin? What does the film purposely leave out?

Investigative journalist and author Daniel Hopsicker is an expert on Barry Seal, the illegal drug trade, and the CIA. He has expressed strong criticism of this film for arrogantly changing history, and says it covers up some of the biggest lies of the drug war.

Hopsicker says it,

“Is supposed to be the true story of Barry Seal. It isn’t. …[it] turns Seal story into “madcap '80’s romp”… Barry Seal was an American Drug Lord, in a country that isn’t supposed to have any. …American Made isn’t really about Barry Seal… it’s about Doug Liman and Tom Cruise. …There are abundant reasons to be suspicious of the motives behind the making of American Made.”

Copyright, Universal Pictures

The true story of Barry Seal is reportedly told much more accurately in such books as…
Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America (Dr. Roger Morris)
The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard)
Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA (Terry Reed and John Cummings)
Barry & ‘the Boys’: The CIA, the Mob and America’s Secret History (Daniel Hopsicker)

Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Featuring Tom CruiseBarry Seal
Domhnall GleesonMonty Schafer
Sarah Wright … “Lucy” Seal
Jesse Plemons … Sheriff Downing
Caleb Landry Jones … JB
Lola Kirke … Judy Downing
Jayma Mays … Dana Sibota
See all »
Director Doug Liman — “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), “The Bourne Identity” (2002)
Producer Jill Ahrens
Ryan Ahrens
See all »

Barry Seal has spent most of his distinguished aviation career as a pilot for TWA airlines. But you see, things have gotten a little… well… stale for Barry. Every so often, a guy just has to go out and have a little adventure, you know?

So what does a normal, middle-aged, well-respected family man like Barry do? Well, he gets himself recruited by the CIA, of course! His job starts off simple. Fly a jet and take some aerial reconnaissance pictures of Colombia so that the United States can gather intelligence on the uprisings occurring in Central America.

However, when Barry gets there, drug lord Pablo Escobar offers to pay him handsomely to transport 200 pounds of marijuana to Louisiana (at $2000 a pound, by the way). Sure enough, Barry accepts, and Barry decides to make illegal drug trafficking his new way of life.

Of course, he doesn’t stop there. Money does things to a man like Barry. He has a family and 3 children to take care of. So Barry expands—hiring employees and greatly increasing his drug distribution enterprise.

In addition, the CIA asks him to transport guns and even people (to a training camp in the United States) via his jet. Barry and his family are living “the good life.” What could possibly go wrong??

All too often these days, biography-based films take a lot of “liberties” or “creative license” in their effort to make more money by increasing the “entertainment appeal” for the masses; hence the reason filmmakers sometimes openly admit their movies are “loosely based” on real events. Some also add political messaging, either openly or somewhat veiled, to stir the media and Liberal critics to exclaim, “Wow, that film was amazing.” Some films add or subtract events, or “milk” some of the details a bit, and change some of the personalities or places—sometimes subtly enough that most people, unaware of the true events, are none the wiser.

Truth makes a difference. So, in this review, I’m breaking my traditional style of just sharing my impressions and describing the content. I’m going to start by unveiling what is true and what is not in “American Made.”

In the film, Barry is shown being offered the job by the CIA after they notice his work in smuggling CIGARS in and out of the U.S. In reality, Barry Seal was first noticed by the CIA for trying to smuggle EXPLOSIVES out of the United States into Central America (TIME, 2017).

The film implies that Barry worked side-by-side with the CIA for many years GATHERING INTELLIGENCE in Guatemala and Nicaragua. In truth, there is insufficient evidence to support or deny this claim. The only thing confirmed is that in 1984 Barry helped take some pictures with a plane. Anything else before that, according to Time magazine, is simply rumors, and cannot be confirmed.

This film has taken a lot of creative license and is not the amazing true-life story that is strongly implied in its marketing. Much of the public assumes this is a true story. One naive secular movie critic even exclaimed, “There’s a thrill in knowing it’s real.” Please understand that this is not the real Barry Seal, and this is not what really happened.

However, as an Action Fiction film, it is sometimes fun and very humorous dark-comedy. Tom Cruise smilingly shines in his role, as reserved as it is. Most of the pacing is good, with the exception of the final act which tends to drag significantly and seems rather anti-climactic.

Content of concern

“American Made” has a LOT of offensive content. This is only a partial list…

Vulgarity/Profanity: Extreme. There are over 60 uses of the f-bomb, including mother-f****r (several), “What in the holy f**k?”, “F**k you and my c*nt sister,” etc. God’s name is misused multiple times, including 9 G*d d**ns). Jesus’s name is also taken in vain. Other words: h*ll (12), damn (10), sh*t (28—including “Holy sh*t”), a**-hole (2), p**sies (2), pr*ck (2), c-word (1), S.O.B. (2), and a scene with urination.

Violence: The violence is not as intense as I was expecting, given its R-rating. Two characters are killed (both assassinated). While taking-off, a pilot plows through trees. A pilot choses to escape authorities by landing his plane in a residential neighborhood—destroying landscaping, mailboxes, and more, plus his plane. A plane is machine gunned, and there is a scene involving a car explosion, as well a plane crash. Wife slaps husband.

Sexual Content/Dialog/Nudity: Very Heavy. There are several moments involving crude sexual dialog pertaining to women. Sheer nightgown. Bikini. Crude sexual comments. Barry and his wife, in quick brief scenes, are shown having sex in different parts of their house—naked (not graphic)—and the audience hears the sexual noises they make. In another scene, the couple has sex in the cockpit of Barry’s plane. Porn magazines delivered. There are 2 scenes where Barry displays his bare bottom to his family, jokingly. The wife’s younger brother brings his girlfriend to visit the Seals, causing the wife to exclaim, “Oh my gosh, that girl is 15 years old!” (underage).

Other issues: The film centers on themes of illegal drug trafficking and greed (more on that below). Characters drink alcohol and smoke in several scenes. The audience also witnesses the wife giving birth to one of her children.


Greed is front and center in “American Made.” Barry was making an acceptable living. He had a wonderful life, a loving family and an amazing career in aviation. Yet, he risks it all for money, for drugs and money. Greed blinds him. In the film, he starts by trying to make enough to protect his family’s future. But when that is achieved, it’s not enough. Barry states, “I have so much money now, I don’t know where to put it all!” Worse, Barry’s greed becomes so great that he passes his low moral values onto his family. As I watched the character being blinded by these things, I couldn’t help but feel pity. He was missing out on the real treasures that God had placed in front of him… his family.

Jesus warns of the dangers of placing our trust and our hopes in the pleasures of this world—in things that perish, where “moths and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The Lord urges, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where you treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:20-21).

The Apostle Paul reminds us:

“…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” —Romans 12:2

Here’s the bottom line on “American Made”. The film takes A LOT of liberties, and there is A LOT of objectionable material (does every R-rated Tom Cruise film, HAVE to have a sex scene in it?). If you can somehow by-pass the content issues, you might enjoy this film, as the moviemaking quality is relatively good. As it stands though, there is no way I can, in good conscience, recommend “American Made” for Christian viewing—and please do NOT allow children to see this.

  • Violence: Moderately Heavy
  • Profanity/Vulgarity: Extreme
  • Sex/Nudity: Very Heavy
Editor’s Note: So, what is the underlying political message behind this latest globally-distributed Hollywood movie?

This film is reminiscent of 1990’s “Air America”—an action comedy involving gonzo pilots, the CIA, and drug and arms smuggling in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Again, the message seems to be that American’s are corrupt and greedy—they elect dangerous cowboy leadership (the fingers point at Reagan and Bush)—their CIA and military are corrupt, and they wrongly meddle in other nation’s affairs, not caring if innocents are hurt in the process.

By the way, the part of the “American Made” story that has Barry landing his plane in a suburban neighborhood and passed out cash to kids is another total fiction; it never happened. Also, the film’s account of how he became a drug smuggler is fiction and its timeline is way off. He began his drug trade in 1975 (not 1980), according to his own wife. The Monty Schafer character played by Domhnall Gleeson is also a fabrication and bears no resemblance to reality.

Article Version: October 10, 2017

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I originally came to SPOTLIGHT to decide if I should watch the movie. As a political history buff, I was shocked by some of the… less than informed… assertions about Barry Seal in general, but since I hadn’t watched the film reserved judgment. In fact—I rented it SOLELY for the purpose of checking the reviewer’s statement.

Frankly, I didn’t find the film that entertaining. Cruise, however is compelling enough to follow, so I’d deem it “watchable” but certainly wouldn’t want to own it on DVD or anything.

As for the historic references I will fully grant that there seems to be little direct evidence that Ollie North was directly involved, and I personally doubt Reagan had any knowledge—especially given Iran Contra testimony.

However… there is a plethora of evidence that not only did Seal work for—and with—the CIA, his own attorney has testified that he confirmed he had a direct relationship with the White House and verified it. (An admiral in George Bush’s office recognized the number and greeted the attorney with, “Barry! Where have you been?”)See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Rightjb, age 56 (USA)
Neutral—The movie is well-made. It is funny, entertaining, thought-provoking, realistic and very cool. I totally enjoyed most of it. There were plenty of good aircraft scenes, as well as shooting and crashing (but no blood and gore). This was good to see. This movie is a remarkable glimpse into the life of a fun-loving man who ventured down the slippery slope of compromise. It gives the realistic moral to the story. Unlike many movies, this one clearly portrays the steps taken and the end result. It was also careful to show the increasing depths of compromise, until the situation was too far gone and literally out of his control.

He was a loving husband and father, very good at his job, who also happened to be a larrikin. The show repeated the phrase many times that aptly summed him up: he liked to leap before he thought.

From a big picture, this movie is one where the main character is a bad guy. He was doing good from one perspective, but it was actually bad from another (better) perspective. He didn’t plan to hurt anyone. He didn’t set out to be a crook. But, nevertheless, a desire for adventure and the love of money got the better of him. He became the bad guy… and he got what was coming to him. I heartily commend this film for this very fact. It showed the consequences of sin.

Of course, the main character thinks he is a good guy. He repeatedly just “delivered the packages,” somehow excusing himself of wrongdoing. But he knew what he was doing. And he was good at it. Coerced or not, he was an informed participant and happy benefactor. He even applied his personal genius to make the ongoing work highly successful (in the short-to-medium term).

The moral to the story is simple. Don’t do crime. ESPECIALLY not drugs. You always have a choice. Once you get in, it’s almost impossible to get out. You will pay. This movie demonstrates that truth nicely.

I have no knowledge of the history this movie is based on, so my comments are strictly limited to the movie itself. Hence I won’t comment on politics, corruption or international relations. This movie shows many bystanders who watch and see, but turn the other way, e.g., the wife who didn’t really care about dishonest gain, as long as her family was secure.

In truth, the casual bystander is not truly innocent. He/she is guilty of inaction and apathy towards a crime/sin. In the end, this movie showed it for what it was. The ‘innocent’ wife (and children) end up back where they started, but with a dead brother and husband. Crime (including drugs) always has consequences, even for the ‘innocent’ bystanders.

There are so many Biblical principles demonstrated in this film!

  • “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them… ‘We will get all sorts of valuable things, and fill our houses with plunder’… These men waylay only themselves! Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it” (Proverbs 1:10-19 NIV).
  • People “who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:9-10a).
  • “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15 NIV).
  • Do not let your heart envy sinners” (Provers 23:17-18).
  • “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills… This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth… When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies” (Psalm 73).
Important note: I highly commend what appeared to be a loving and faithful marriage in this movie! The main character is semi-concerned about providing for his family. Even when things go pear-shaped, his first thought is for their welfare.

However, the sexual intimacy between a husband and wife should not be acted out on a movie screen. This is unacceptable.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Tim, age 32 (Australia)
Movie Critics
…When Tom Cruise is Tom Cruising, history takes a backseat… [2/5]
Clarisse Loughrey, Independent [UK]
…Tom Cruise’s latest is better than ‘The Mummy,’ but that’s not saying much… [3/5]
James Luxford, Metro [UK]
…Tom Cruise grins his way through a dark comedy… a film about a careless individual who only wants to feed his own ego and adrenaline. A more introspective performance could have made this one of the defining performances of Cruise’s career, but he seems fairly oblivious to the subtext of his character, so Liman tries to use this to his advantage, turning the story of smuggler Barry Seal into one of American excess and carelessness on the global stage. …
Matt Goldberg, Collider
…The makers of the based-on-a-true-story black comedy “American Made” fail to satisfactorily answer one pressing question: why is CIA operative and Colombia drug-runner Barry Seal’s story being told as a movie and not a book? What's being shown in this film that couldn't also be expressed in prose? …[2]
Simon Abrams,
…this is a film that at its core is about Presidential corruption, murder, illegal drugs, illegal arms sales as well as inherent corruption of not only the CIA but any number of government agencies…
…portrays an Anti-Reagan view of the Iran-Contra Scandal in the 1980s, including depicting Oliver North as a rather shady guy… includes controversial historical claims that support some radical left-wing, right-wing conspiracy theories about Barry Seal, the CIA and Pres. Reagan.
Ted Baehr, Movieguide
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I really appreciated the “Editor’s Note” section of the review. I really don’t like the fact that so many Hollywood movies are anti-American. And with a title like “American Made” something smelled fishy here. Is the implication that anything American made is corrupt? I appreciated that the reviewer tried to comment on this idea.
James Osborn, age 65 (USA)

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