Tom Cruise comes with so much baggage, doesn’t he? To the point that it’s difficult to see him in any movie now without getting the impression that you are only watching him play himself (not that he would be the first actor to do this. It is, after all, how the cult of celebrity is grown.) In this case it’s not too disconcerting, for his character, Barry Seal, a pilot who gets involved with drugs and arms smugglers, appears to be a perfect fit for Cruise’s brassy ego.
Based on actual events, director Doug Liman has found in Seal a man who was at the centre of some of the most controversial and corrupt activities of the 80s. Lured by a mysterious CIA figure, Seal walks away from his job with TWA to fly shipments of cocaine from Colombia into the US. He is seduced by the mountains of money he makes but, because he is so cocksure of his own abilities, he is unable to see the web that he is trapped in.
The story is fast moving but coherent – thanks in part to the edits that have Seal recording videos explaining all that he did, and for whom he did it. And there are some impressive names to conjure with – Panama’s President Noriega, Pablo Escobar of the Medellín cartel, Major Oliver North (remember him?) who made such a mess of the Iran/Contra scam, and even George Dubya. Throughout it all, Seal retains the naïve, irrepressible positivity that exemplifies the culture that nurtured him and, in a strange way, you can’t help but admire his chutzpah. Ultimately, he finds himself out of his depth as covert government machinations place him between a rock and a hard place – but, as he insists, ‘what a ride’.
Cruise obviously likes Seal, but if the…
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