Tom Cruise is a hoot in this true-life inspired caper from director Doug Liman
Hard to classify and as unpredictable as its protagonist, this comedic drama is part political satire, part absurdist crime caper, part conspiracy thriller. Its equally unpredictable director Doug Liman has shown he can make a more than handsome job of big-budget action thrillers and sci-fi (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) but he's never surrendered his indie sensibilities (Swingers, Go and the recent The Wall). Liman crafts a so-crazy-it-could-only-be-true tale (written by Gary Spinelli on spec and won by Universal after a hot script auction) into a dizzying escapade with judicious dollops of frantic editing, montage, hand-held camerawork, animation, a groovy 80s soundtrack and Tom Cruise with his likeable rogue dial turned right up to 11.
Cruise stars as Barry Seal, a once hotshot pilot turned family man, bored with his routine as a commercial passenger jet pilot. In 1978 a mysterious man calling himself Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) pops up with unnerving knowledge of Barry and his modest sideline smuggling Cuban cigars. To his ill-concealed glee, Barry's get-out-of-jail-free card is to work undercover for the CIA. He's gifted with a snazzy private jet fitted out with surveillance tech, and all he has to do is flyovers getting photos of people and places of interest South of the Border. He's so good at it that he gets additional errands and, before long, Barry is dangerously embroiled with soon-to-become-infamous figures, including Manuel Noriega and the kingpins of Pablo Escobar's Medallín cartel.
Barry runs drugs, guns and CIA-sponsored terrorists, in-between his guy-next-door activities in small-town America. He makes an obscene fortune, and friends from the White House to a Colombian jungle compound, until his greedy multitasking spirals out of control and things take a dramatic turn. Amid a ton of laughs, Barry's maverick misadventures are gradually understood to be a key part of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan-Bush administration, as the film reveals itself as a hoot with an edge, delightfully duping its audience into learning some important lessons. And it is a pleasure to report that when its star takes a break from more typical 'Tom Cruise movies' he has still very much got it.
General release from Fri 25 Aug.