American Made 4K Ultra HD Review

  • Actors: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright Olsen, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones
  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Writer: Gary Spinelli
  • Producers: Brian Grazer, Brian Oliver, Doug Davison, Kim Roth, Ray Angelic
  • Disc Format: 4K, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: January 2, 2018
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018 

        American Made is built upon the ‘based on a true story’ crime film formula, following the tradition of countless similar films that have come before. It’s a bit Goodfellas, a little bit The Infiltrator, shades of “Narcos,” and ultimately a story that feels all-too familiar every step of the way. The crowning achievement of American Made is its ability to help audiences forget that Tom Cruise also starred in The Mummy in 2017, and allowing him the opportunity to play a role that capitalizes on the veneer of charisma which made him a star in the first place.

        In telling the story of Barry Seal (Cruise), the American pilot hired by the CIA to become a drug-runner in a clandestine operation now known as the Iran-Contra Affair, American Made had the opportunity to make parallels between the secrecy and corruption in the 1980s and 2017. Instead, director Doug Liman takes an incredibly direct approach to the story, which ultimately comes off as shallow escapism despite the gravity of its narrative. Even though Seal’s involvement led to the trafficking of drugs and weapons alike, there are only two deaths in the film and nobody is seen taking drugs. We are meant to revel in the money and power afforded Seal by the government sponsored criminality, while the film irresponsibly does nothing to show the consequences of these actions beyond how they affect this single man and his family.

        This family includes his wife, Lucy (played by Sarah Wright, who is over 20-years younger than her romantic co-star, in continuation of a disturbing Hollywood tradition) and children. Even though he attempts to keep his questionable new job a secret after a CIA agent (Domhnall Gleeson) approaches him with the offer, Lucy eventually discovers the truth and is quickly swept up in the rewards of moral bankruptcy. And ultimately, this is both the appeal and problem with American Made; because everyone seems to be of questionable character, the film offers nobody to root for, but also makes the inevitable downfall somewhat more satisfying. It is the film equivalent of watching a televised car chase, knowing how it will eventually end somehow allowing us to enjoy the irreprehensible actions leading up to that final takedown.

        But this is nothing new. This is a story structure that has existed nearly as long as the gangster genre itself, and that is part of the problem. American Made is all too happy cramming the storyline into a pre-existing genre formula, all the while saying nothing about the actual person or events from the 1980s. Despite archival news clips showing the government’s participation in criminality, Gary Spinelli’s screenplay never really condemns anyone’s actions. It is far too preoccupied with the charm and attractiveness of its cast to have anything to say, which may be fine for movies like The Mummy, but audiences should expect more from the true stories Hollywood chooses to tell.

        American Made is the first film that Liman has chosen to shoot on digital film, although it is far more notable for the shooting location choices than anything done with the cinematography. Despite a few visually exciting aerial sequences, there is little need for a film like American Made to be owned on 4K Ultra HD, unless you have the urge to see if you can spot any wrinkles to indicate that Cruise has aged at all in the last 20 years. The greatest enhancement that the 4K presentation offers is a richer display of the colors found in Columbian hilltops where many scenes were shot.

        The 4K release also comes with a Blu-ray disc, as well as a Digital HD copy of the film. Only the film is included on the 4K disc, while the Blu-ray contains all of the special features along with the movie. These include several deleted scenes, a conversation with Cruise and Liman, and a handful of featurettes. Most of these making-of features focus on the aerial aspects of the story and filmmaking process, as well as information about the real Barry Seal.  

Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance:  6/10
Special Features: 7.5/10

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