Not Approved

American Made

A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.
Negative Rating
Positive Rating

Dove Review

The filmmakers of American Made seemingly take some narrative license with their biographical version of the infamous Barry Seal, a career criminal drug smuggler, played gleefully by Tom Cruise. Upon leaving his commercial job as a TWA pilot, Seal was, indeed, in the employ of Pablo Escobar—the “King of Cocaine” and the wealthiest criminal in history—who was head of the Medellin Cartel in Columbia during the 1970s and ‘80s. The film implicates the American government in using Seal for reconnaissance missions for years before he actually became an informant for the DEA, a bargain that served to lighten his prison sentence upon his conviction for drug smuggling.

Though Cruise’s southern accent is left wanting at times, it’s an interesting choice to bring levity and humor to the role. This increases Seal’s likability factor and adds to the sense that the audience is meant to root for the criminal and even the Medellin cartel, for whom Seal smuggled drugs. The film further suggests that these characters are just trying to make a buck, which is the good ol’ American way. The title of the movie, itself, implies that everyone has the freedom to make the most out of the cards they’re dealt, especially at the hands of an authoritarian government that is only using people for its own political ends. American Made has the DEA, CIA, government officials, and other authorities looking incompetent and underhanded, while we might hope that the likeable character Seal and his family would escape unharmed.

While the film itself is our focus, it’s worth noting another side of the Barry Seal story. Del Hahn, an ex-CIA and FBI agent, claims in his book, Smuggler’s End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal, that Seal’s so-called government connections are a myth and that Seal was not concurrently working for the CIA as a spy during the Cold War. On the contrary, Hahn does not portray Seal as a likable victim, but rather as a hardened criminal. Based on what Hahn calls his own lengthy investigations and firsthand knowledge of Seal’s involvement, he says, “I found no credible evidence that Seal was involved or that he had ever been an ‘asset’ or employee of the CIA.” Moreover, he points out in his book, some people have likened the Barry Seal story to a vast government conspiracy akin to Roswell (2016).

The movie does develop a few action-packed and tense scenes where Seal nearly crashes his plane and is trapped in other life-threatening predicaments; however, nothing on the level of Cruise’s typical high-performing stunt-filled escapades. Even Seal’s assassination by the cartel is conveyed somewhat mildly in the movie, but the controversy about the lack of government protection on his behalf prevails. There has been recent cultural interest and excitement surrounding this bit of history due to the success of the Netflix show Narcos, now in its third season, which discloses this story in detail (based on published Wall Street Journal [WSJ] articles).

This film will not be awarded the Dove-Approved Seal due to a constant use of profanity, including F-bombs; drug smuggling, especially as it is portrayed in a lighthearted sense (though no actual drug use is ever shown); illegal activity, and an ever-present disrespect for authority.

Dove Rating Details




One off-screen killing where gun can be seen pointed at victim but only shot is heard


Multiple jump cuts in one scene, visually obscured by heavy filtering to portray husband and wife engaging in sex in multiple locations throughout the home.


F-bombs throughout; "Sh**"; Male and Female genitalia slang terms; Several D***'s; God and Jesus in vain


One off-screen killing where gun can be seen pointed at victim but only shot is heard


Continuous drinking throughout; drugs are being transported in large quantities.


One scene shows wife in skimpy lingerie.


Disrespect for authority, lying, stealing and illegal activity is present throughout.

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