USA in  the late 70s was in the throes of a war — a cold war against the Communists in Russia  (then USSR). It  was also knee-deep in covert operations in Central America —Nicaragua being the headquarters of drug smuggling cartels — with druglord Pablo Escobar firmly in charge and the US backing the freedom fighters against the Sandinastas.
With Liman and writer Gary Spinelli glamorising a few portions of the film, American Made is loosely inspired by the true story of ace pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) being hired by CIA operative Shafer (Domhnall Gleeson) to run errands (fly covert missions) on their behalf. What begins as a seemingly safe and harmless assignment  turns out to be a disaster waiting to happen in the corridors of the White House culminating in the infamous Iran-Contra affair which nearly toppled the Reagan administration.
Ferrying AK-47s for the freedom fighters, the avaricious Seal transports hundreds of pounds of cocaine on the return trip, in the bargain bringing loads of greenbacks to his 2000 acre estate given to him by the CIA.
The happy-go-lucky Seal (a worthwhile act by the perennially giggling Tom Cruise) may be a novice but he’s certainly not naive. His wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen) seems aware of what is happening — even as a TWA pilot he was smuggling Havana cigars — but turns a blind eye when hubby makes enough money to feed the small town of Mena (Arkansas) where they’ve been relocated by the CIA.
The frequent flashbacks of Seal’s self-videotaped confessions serve as a minor distraction. Though it’s a sheer coincidence that even ‘Top Gun’, which catapulted Tom Cruise to the top of the Hollywood league, was made during the Reagan era.
Director Liman and Cruise collaborate after the 2014 ‘Edge of Tomorrow’  and they don’t disappoint. Cruise unerringly gets the mood  of the frenzied flights to and from the Central American nation soot-on.
The film depicts the tacit involvement of CIA in all of Seal’s activities, and Cruise makes up for a script which seems to wane a bit in the second half. American Made ticks all the right boxes where the nation is shown indulging in the various nefarious activities which led to the Iran-Contra episode and the murder of the real Barry Seal in the mid-80s.

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