The Curse of the Anachronism Spotter

Just about everyone has their little area of expertise in life. Some people know all the nuances of China-Taiwan relations, so folks really know how to pick a melon, and most of us here know some facets of the world of automobiles pretty well. Experts of any stripe tend to readily spot a false statement in their area of expertise. That can be a fun point of pride, but it can also be an annoyance.

This weekend, we took in “American Made,” the latest Tom Cruise flick. The movie had to contend with the usual problem of a Tom Cruise movie: you can’t ever quite get past the sensation that you are watching Tom Cruise do Tom Cruise-y things. I signed up for that when I bought the ticket, though, so I could accept it and spend a reasonably enjoyable evening basking in the Tom Cruise-iness of the whole thing.

What I did not count on, and what sorta ruined the movie for me, was a heaping, obvious, glaring vehicular anachronism. The movie is set in the late 1970s and 1980s, which gives the set dressers, costumers and prop masters the opportunity to let their malaise era flag fly. At one point, set in about 1980, Tom Cruise and his Tom Cruise Movie Family were headed out in a period-correct Dodge Aspen wagon (brown, of course). I spent much of that scene just enjoying the craptacularness of that car, with all the features I remember from the terrible cars of my youth: unending brownness, rectangular speedometer, massive chrome bumpers, etc.


In the very next scene, taking place in the movie’s timeline a few scant minutes after the previous scene, another character pulls up driving a 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity. They couldn’t even finesse the issue by using an early 80s version with the four sealed beam headlights; they had to get a late version with the smooth “Euro” headlights. I couldn’t stop thinking about this easy screw-up for the rest of the movie. It would have been so easy to avoid. Was there nobody among the several dozen people crawling around the film set who could tell at a glance that the late-80s A-body was totally out of place in a 1980 scene?

It’s a dumb thing for me to get hung up on, but that’s the burden we gearheads carry.

Share This Story