Is the year 2017 or 1987? It seemingly feels like it could be either, as I review a Suspense/Drama starring Tom Cruise as a TWA pilot/drug smuggler who ultimately gets swept up in the Iran-Contra scandal. Teaming up with director Doug Liman for the first time since their success Edge of Tomorrow, this peculiar adventure, based on true events, develops from the point of view of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise).
The Seal we first encounter is a loving husband and father whose thrill-seeking needs don’t seem to be satisfied as just an ordinary commercial airline pilot. In one of the movie’s first scenes we witness Seal intentionally create turbulence while his co-pilot and passengers are sleeping, apparently out of plain boredom. A far cry from the likes of Charles Lindbergh. Promptly after landing, Seal meets a CIA agent by the name of “Schafer” (Domhnall Gleason), who offers Seal a chance at exhilarating escapades, sending him to spy on the increasing trouble in Latin America, where the American-supported Contras are fighting with the Soviet-supported Sandinistas.
Almost immediately thereafter Seal finds himself in a very lucrative, but menacing situation, in which he becomes a drug courier for Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. Captivated by the financial possibilities and his need to fulfill his boundless adrenaline, Seal assembles an army of smugglers in order to take full advantage of this gigantic profit bearing opportunity. Eventually the immense influx of cash into the little town of Mena, Arkansas, where Seal and his family reside, attracts the attention of just about every federal agency you can think of.
This film takes a playful yet compelling look at a chapter of our history known as the Reagan-Era, and all the unconventional efforts that took place in order to put an end to drug trafficking. Unlike the true events, this story hardly carries any consequence, even with such figures as Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejía), Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) and Carlos Lehder (Fredy Yate Escobar). The only real violence that transpires, is in the form of a car bomb, which occurs prior to the films inglorious conclusion.
Liman does a fantastic job keeping this story practical, even when events that take place seem improbable or absurd. He also directs with plenty of intensity, though a few more thoughtful moments would have been nice. As for Cruise, it’s certainly an electric performance, where he manages to make Seal seem likable, despite his reprehensible behavior. Similar to Blow and other cartel movies that have preceded, it‘s the dark side of the American dream signified. With its latent political subtext, there is genuine resonance among the thrills.
Contributed By Brandon Colon