American Made (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 6-Dec-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Trailer-Start-up Trailers (4:42)
Deleted Scenes-x 6 (9:56)
Featurette-American Storytellers (6:39)
Featurette-Cruise & Liman: A Conversation (5:25)
Featurette-In the Wings (6:01)
Featurette-Shooting American Made (4:16)
Featurette-Flying High (4:50)
Featurette-The Real Barry Seal (5:51)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 114:58
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Doug Liman
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Tom Cruise
Domhall Gleeson
Sarah Wright
Alejandro Edda
Mauricio Mejia
Caleb Landry Jones


Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Christophe Beck


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS-X 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
English DTS-X 2.0
German DTS-X 7.1
Italian dts 5.1
Spanish dts 5.1
French dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Portuguese
Hindi
Chinese
Arabic
Icelandic
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Barry: ”Is this legal?”
Schafer: “It is when you are doing it for the good guys”

     It is 1978 and Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is a hotshot pilot for TWA with a larrikin streak and an entrepreneurial inclination, smuggling Cuban cigars into the USA on TWA flights through Canada. He is recruited by Monty Schafer (Domhall Gleeson) from the CIA to take aerial photographs of insurgent bases in Central America and to fly cash to Noriega in Panama. On one stop for refuelling in Colombia, Jorge (Alejandro Edda) of the Medellin Cartel takes Barry to Pablo Escabar (Mauricio Mejia) who makes Barry an offer he cannot refuse; after a mission for the CIA on his return flight to the USA Barry will take a load of cocaine for the cartel.

     This proves to be very lucrative, but on a later visit to Escabar the house is raided by Colombian soldiers and Barry is imprisoned. He is freed by Schafer, but only on the condition that Barry agrees to fly guns to the Contras in Nicaragua, something that has been declared illegal by the US Congress. With little choice Barry agrees; helped by the CIA and one step ahead of the DEA, Barry moves his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) and his growing family to Mena, a small town in Arkansas, where the CIA have purchased Barry a property, including a private airfield. Business booms for Barry; as well as flying guns to the Contras, many of which end up in Colombia with the Medellin cartel, drugs are flown into the USA. By 1983 Barry has made millions, expanded his operations to include five aircraft and pilots and became a pillar of the Mena community, sponsoring sports teams! The biggest problem he has is how to stash all the cash he is making around the house!

     The good life was not to last, of course. All the activity attracted the attention of the FBI, DEA, US Customs and the State Police and Barry’s airfield is raided and Barry caught. The CIA decides not to acknowledge Barry but, in another bizarre twist, he is released on the orders of the White House and finds himself working for Oliver North and the DEA collecting evidence against the Medellin cartel. This puts the lives of Barry and his family at risk, for the cartel does not forget those who betray them.

     American Made is based, somewhat loosely, on the true story of one of the biggest covert operations conducted by the CIA. It is directed by Doug Liman; I recently reviewed The Wall which he made the same year as American Made; that film had only one location and two characters but Liman is no stranger to sprawling, expansive multi-character action films with, for example, The Bourne Identity (2002) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), again with Tom Cruise, on his CV. American Made is a return to a film with diverse locations, numerous characters and a story that sprawls over seven years.

     American Made is certainly episodic but the year and location is often identified by a screen text, which helps. Despite the subject matter and the tragic consequences for some of the people involved, American Made is a cavalier and cynical look at the America of the 1980s, the can do attitudes and the entrepreneurial spirit of the times, when anything was possible. In places, American Made is a biting indictment of the various US law enforcement agencies, where each has no idea what the others are doing and the CIA can provide Barry with inside information so that he can avoid surveillance. Some scenes are very funny; the sequence where a diverse range of law enforcement agencies, all uncoordinated, turn up to raid Barry’s airport at the same time is pure farce (and hopefully for the fight against drugs, this part of the story is not totally accurate).

     American Made retains a sense of fun throughout, not taking anything seriously and blending real people, such as Ronald Reagan, Manuel Noriega, Pablo Escabar, Oliver North, into the story as well as period music and a colour palate that looks very 1980s. Tom Cruise looks nothing like the real Barry Seal, and will always be Tom Cruise, but there is less of his usual self here and the charm and larrikinism that seem to be a trait of the real Barry Seal, as indicated in the extra on this Blu-ray, suits Cruise well. Perhaps the real surprise is Sarah Wright; her previous credits were predominately in TV but here she gives an excellent performance in a role that could have been the stock blonde trophy wife, but which comes across as a believable love interest, wife and mother. Alejandro Edda also has a whale of a time as the Medellin cartel contact with a wicked sense of humour.

     American Made is a cartoon of a film, with some beautiful flying segments, larger than life characters, a plot that ranges over two continents and seven years and a covert operation that was one of the biggest in U.S. history; it would be unbelievable and farcical if it were not, however loosely, based on real events.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     American Made is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code. The film was released theatrically in Europe in 2.39:1 but this Blu-ray reflects the director’s original ratio.

     American Made is not intended to look sharp or pristine. Colours, contrast and brightness vary considerably; in sequences above South America (also standing in for Central America) the green of the jungle leaves is so bright and vibrant it hurts the eyes! Similarly scenes of the aircraft in the blue sky over sea are also vibrant, cliffs are a bright yellow, as are sunsets. Scenes on the ground have more natural colours. Many sequences were shot using handheld cameras that moved around a bit, resulting in reduced detail and prominent glare. Elsewhere, detail was fine, blacks and shadow detail good. Marks and artefacts were absent.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available plus a wide range of European languages, Arabic, Hindi and Chinese.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The principal audio is English DTS-X 7.1. Also provided are German DTS-X 7.1, English DTS-X 2.0 Headphone, Spanish, French and Italian dubs in DTS 5.1 plus English descriptive audio (Dolby Digital 5.1) using a male voice.

     I am not set up for 7.1 audio but the 5.1 is excellent. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand while the surrounds featured engines roaring around and overhead, helicopters and music. The sequence where Barry takes off from a short dirt runway in the jungle with a heavy lead of cocaine is exhilarating with roaring engines, the thump of wheels and the splintering and shredding of leaves and branches as the plane tears through the jungle canopy. The subwoofer supported the engines and the music.

     The original score by Christophe Beck was supported by a plethora of songs by artists including Hot Chocolate, The Allman Brothers Band, Linda Ronstadt, Charlie Rich and Talking Heads.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Start-up Trailers (4:42)

     On start-up trailers for The Mummy and Darkest Hour play plus an ad for Blu-ray HD. They cannot be selected from the menu.

Deleted Scenes (9:56)

     These deleted scenes can be played with or without commentary by director Doug Liman who explains the reason why each was cut. One was cut early in production as it was filmed in front of a blue screen. The scenes are:

.

Featurettes

     These EPK type featurettes use frequent clips from the film, on set footage and comments by director Doug Liman, cast Tom Cruise, Domhall Gleeson, Sarah Wright and Caleb Landry Jones, writer Gary Spinelli and four producers. Some information and film clips are repeated in different featurettes.

American Storytellers (6:39)

     America in the 1980s as a land of opportunity, casting Tom Cruise, the working methods of the director.

Cruise & Liman: A Conversation (5:25)

     Doug Liman and Tom Cruise chat about the film, sharing a house and their relationship.

In the Wings (6:01)

     Concentrates on the characters played by Domhall Gleeson, Sarah Wright and Caleb Landry Jones.

Shooting American Made (4:16)

     Converting a seven year story to two hours of running time, shooting in Ball Ground, Georgia as a stand in for Mena, Arkansas and filming in Colombia.

Flying High (4:50)

     Tom Cruise doing his own flying in the film and shooting on remote jungle airstrips in Colombia.

The Real Barry Seal (5:51)

     Accompanied by family photos and videos, Aaron Seal, youngest son of Barry Seal, talks about the character and personality of his father.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray of American Made has fewer non-English language and subtitle options, but otherwise is the same as our release including extras.

Summary

     American Made is funny, exuberant, cynical and facial and maintains a light tone despite the subject matter. The film has found audience and critical approval and currently has an 86% approval rating on rottentomatoes.com. Although it is intriguing and the aerial stunts and scenery stunning, I found the film hard to warm to, perhaps because of the frivolous treatment of what was really a tragedy.

     The video is as the filmmakers intended, the audio is very good. The extras are reasonable but not extensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, March 03, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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