IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 115 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Barry Seal is a TWA pilot in the late 70s who makes a bit of extra money on the side smuggling contraband. He receives a visit from CIA spook Schafer says he could make life hard for him unless he comes to work for the good guys – though good is hardly what they turn out to be. Recruited as a reconnaisance pilot snapping pictures of Central America, Seal then acts as a courier between the CIA and General Noriega in Panama. But then he’s shot down by Pablo Escobar’s rising cartel and virtually forced into running drugs from Colombia into the US. Seal soon finds himself making more money than he has room for….
Considering that Columbia under Pablo Escabar and his lot was the total opposite of a laughing matter, it’s possible to feel uneasy in a few places during this lighthearted romp which re-teams Tom Cruise with his Edge Of Tomorrow director Doug Liman. And, while it’s nice to see Cruise give himself a few more oppurtunities to do some decent acting as opposed to jumping off buildings and running away from CGI, this role constantly seems to require him to grin – even the first shot of his face sports that now rather tiresome beam. But this film does allow him to chance to display a rarely used comic ability [a scene where he crashes a plane in suburbia, climbs out with a satchel of coke which has partly exploded in his face, gives a kid several $100 bills for the damage caused and the use of his bike and then peddles away, is a highpoint and perfectly played] and the vaguely satirical tale of an American Dream-chasing and indeed American Dream-achieving guy who’ll say yes first and answer questions later just so he can have some more dough is apparently true, with few major changes for the screen – which just goes to show that truth really can be stranger than fiction.
Liman goes overboard with the Dutch angles and occasionally resorts to horrid shakycam, while yet once again we have South American countries photographed with that bleached out look. The use of animation is irritating, the device of having Barry narrate events as he’s recording videos for prosperity doesn’t really come off, and more time could have been spent getting to know the other characters, especially Barry’s wife [the actress playing her is, of course, 20 years younger than Cruise], though her brother is such a repulsive person that I was rather glad his screen time was limited. Still, the thing bounces along pleasantly at a fast pace, the period is well evoked, and the flying sequences are great, helped greatly by the fact that they seem to have used real planes as much as possible. It scarily but believably shows how our intelligence services often seem to bumble about in the dark, and are more closely connected to organised crime then we want to know. And it’s often funny, such as when seemingly every organisation turns up to arrest Barry – though one can’t escape the feeling that it shouldn’t really be funny at all. Still, fairly good entertainment as long as you don’t think about it too much.