A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This isn't a message film; it's far more about irony than morality, inclusiveness, etc. If anything, it's a cautionary tale against getting in over your head, but even that's a stretch.
Positive Role Models
Positive role models are hard to find in a story in which just about every character is deeply flawed. Everyone is pretty much amoral, incompetent, murderous, or outright evil. But you still root for the main character.
Violence & Scariness
Plenty of tension, but while the war on drugs and Central American insurgencies are the backdrop to the story, the related violence isn't shown (though it's taken seriously). A car bombing has an emotional impact on the characters/film, but it isn't graphic.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few instances of non-graphic sex, including in the pilot's seat of a plane in flight. Brief partial nudity (of a few folks) from behind, including the main character humorously mooning his family more than once.
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Many uses of "f--k" and its variants. Also "s--t," "goddammit," "c--t," "pr--k," "hell," "goddamn," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," and more. "P--sies" is seen written twice.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cocaine smuggling is at the heart of the story, but viewers don't see many drugs being used. Some drinking/toasting, evidence of men drinking beers. Lots of talk about drugs and the drug war, but mostly for ironic effect. Memorable visual gag with spilled coke powder.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that American Made is based on the true story of a CIA pilot (Tom Cruise) who doubled as a drug runner in the 1980s. Expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," etc.) and a few sexual situations, plus brief nudity (a man moons his family, etc.). For a film about drugs, not much actual drug use is shown; characters do drink. And there's a non-graphic car bombing, but otherwise violence is more referred to and discussed than shown. Still, the tension and stress of the high-wire act the main character walks might be too intense for kids. But the main issue for parents may be whether a film this ironic is right for their family. It takes a bluntly, hilariously cynical view of 1980s American foreign policy and secret operations, as well as of the war on drugs itself. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Thankfully a comedy rather than a documentary, this is a gonzo, ironic barrel roll through the war on drugs and U.S. covert ops in Central America in the '80s. American Made gleefully distorts the facts to entertain, and it succeeds, managing a rare balance of tension and humor. Cruise and director Doug Liman reunite after their pairing for the hit Edge of Tomorrow; considering the quality of both films, it's good news that they intend to work together again. Here, Cruise plays a kind of funhouse version of pilot, convicted smuggler, and eventual DEA informant Barry "Fat Man" Seal (not so fat in this film). Seal is portrayed as an inveterate thrill-seeker who cheerfully gets in deep with both the CIA and the Medellín Cartel. The money to be made is unfathomable. The license to steal proves addictive. The dangers, the morality, the law -- all are pushed aside with Machiavellian delight. Domhnall Gleeson plays Seal's CIA handler and Sarah Wright co-stars as Seal's wife.
American Made is cynical in the best way. It's like a drunken rollercoaster ride at the rickety amusement park that was 1980s U.S. foreign policy; it's appropriately absurd. Although doing even just a little research confirms that the filmmakers played fast and loose with the facts, that's not important. What is important is that it all feels insane enough to be true. As always, Liman moves the story along briskly and compellingly. The flying sequences are thrilling. The script is loaded with little tricks and laughs. The leads are good, but the secondary casting is great: Caleb Landry Jones is deliciously disgusting as a relative bound for trouble. As top Medellín figures Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar, respectively, Alejandro Edda and Mauricio Mejía mix easygoing humanity with real menace. (Mejía, by the way, has played Escobar three other times, so he seems to have it down.) Movies about this period and subject tend to be pretty dark, for good reason. But not this one. So don't take American Made as a historical document -- enjoy it as a fun commentary on an otherwise unfunny chapter in recent history.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.